How to Support the People of Syria and Turkey

In the early hours of the 6th of February, Turkey and Syria were struck by a strong 7.8 earthquake. Due to this and hundreds of after shocks, buildings have collapsed and villages have crumbled. Since then, crews on the grounds have been attempting to pull survivors from the rubble in below zero temperatures.

Sadly, over 20,000 people have lost their lives in both Syria and Turkey. Young children have been orphaned and parents have lost their precious children. Over 300,000 people have been deemed homeless, many sleeping in their cars or nearby makeshift shelters hoping to hear word on a missing loved one.

In Eastern Syria where humanitarian aid was already needed before the earthquake, it’s even more dire now than ever due to the on going civil war.

There is a dire need for financial donations, winter clothing, bedding, shelters, food assistance, and volunteers to help with an already strained situation in both countries.

There are many groups on the grounds now helping find survivors and providing urgent care. Our help towards those causes, as listed below, goes a long long way!

The White Helmets dubbed “Syria’s Heros” are the main rescue workers on the ground since the civil war. They’ve been pulling survivors, including their own members, from the rubble since Monday. Our help to them goes a long way! Donations made in USD via credit card vs other methods can be tax deductible.

The Red Crescent of Turkey, an affiliate of the American Red Cross, has been known to provide relief efforts around the world. It’s now our turn to help them at home, which they’ve tweeted here.

Islamic Relief are currently on the grounds helping provide aid and relief support to those in both Syria and Turkey. Their hardworking teams’ amazing efforts do not go unnoticed as reported by BuzzFeed.

There is a Launch Good campaign by Professor Khaled Beydoun to support Droplets of Mercy‘s efforts in Syria and Turkey. They are delivering emergency kits to those in need, including food packs, blankets, coats, and hygiene kits.

International Medical Corps has to date delivered 15 metric tons of medications and medical supplies to Syria’s ministry of health warehouses in Aleppo, Hama, and Lattakia. Their emergency response teams in Turkey are partnering with local teams to assess the needed supplies and support. Donate to support their efforts to provide life saving care to the region.

As always, our friends at World Central Kitchen has already made it to Turkey, providing meals to survivors and first responders. Also standing ready to support the affected areas is World Food Program of the UN. They are reaching tens of thousands of people and with our help, can reach many more with urgently needed food assistance.

For those of you in Qatar, you can donate directly to Qatar Charity and Qatar Red Crescent‘s relief efforts in Syria and Turkey. Per ILoveQatar.net, it’s been reported that Qatar Airways has flown necessary materials as well as the Qatari National Search and Rescue Team, aka Lakhweya, to the region.

For those of us in the Bay Area, the Turkish Student Association of UC Berkeley has been working with Turkish Airlines to deliver much needed materials such as blankets and winter clothing to those in need. Follow them on Instagram for donation updates or Venmo funds towards these materials.

Adding to the page that the American Humane just authorized an emergency grant yesterday to International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to save and support the animals in need. As an animal lover and cat mom, this made my heart smile. Kudos!

Adding to the page that Humanity First is also on the grounds proving medical and food assistance. You can follow Qasim Rashid on Twitter who will be on the grounds in Turkey volunteering with the organization.

I will be updating this page with more verified resources as they become available. So if you know of any other organizations providing relief support and assistance that can use our donations, please share them in the comments or tag me (@mshalaco) on any social media platforms.

May God have mercy on the beautiful people of Syria and Turkey, amen.

How to Help Those Affected by the California Wildfires – 2.0

I’m disheartened as I find myself writing another version of a similarly titled rant.

The wildfires burning across not just the state of California, but the entire western US region is alarming and heartbreaking. Mainly caused by the effects of climate change and a few dumb human mistakes, these fires have now become one of the largest yet on record.

In California, fires have now claimed over 25 lives, burned over 3.2 million acres, with some fires barely 50-70% contained as I write this rant. Even while being many miles away from the closest fire, the smoke has made the air quality all across the Bay Area and the state one of the worst in the world. At one point, according to IQair, we in San Francisco hit 200AQI or “purple”. San Francisco air is now in the “green” for the first time in over a month.

Since my asthma attack earlier this year, I haven’t used my inhaler as much as I have these past several weeks. I have been home for almost three weeks straight and finally went for a walk for the first time this week, masked of course. Yet I keep thinking, how are the people in the heart of this disaster even coping?

The first responders have put their own lives on the line helping people evacuate and attempting to put out these fires. They’ve even gotten help from firefighters from as far as Australia, who battled their own wildfires barely a year ago.

If you still deny that climate change is real, please educate yourself!

So how can we help our fellow Californians in their time of need? Below are a few organizations I’m aware of that are on the grounds. Your donations in the form of finances, awareness, and time would be greatly appreciated.

– The California Fire Foundation is providing both financial and emotional support to our hardworking firefighters on the grounds as well as fallen officers and their families. Let’s be sure to show your appreciation to the amazing s/heroes out there.

Islamic Relief USA has a Disaster Response Team that is helping those affected by the fires all across the western coast.

– The American Red Cross is also providing assistance for all those affected by the wildfires, from temporary shelters to blood drives.

– The North Valley Community Foundation is continuing what they started during the Camp and Butte fires back in 2018 and providing continued support to local resources across Northern California.

– Of course, the World Central Kitchen is still helping provide hot meals across Calfornia as well as Washington and Oregon states. You can also donate to local food banks in the region through Feeding America.

I’ll update this rant with any additional information I come across to do our part in helping our fellow Americans throughout the west coast. If you have additional information to share, kindly email me or post the sources in the comments below.

SF Sundays – Winter Wonderland!

Happy December Everyone!!

I do love the city in December. Maybe it’s the holiday lights, maybe it’s my birthday month. I don’t know, I just love San Francisco in December!

Our family may not celebrate Christmas but we sure love the winter season nonetheless, exchanging presents, and decorating our home as we do for Halloween and both Eids each year.

Before we go exploring the city, I do want to remind you that we’ve had massive fires up in the North Bay thanks in part to PG&E negligence (yea, I said it!), heat waves, high winds and dry brush in the past couple of months. If you’d like to help those in need this holiday season, please support the World Central Kitchen, Islamic Relief Fund and the California Fire Foundation.

HAPPENING AROUND TOWN

If you’ve never seen a movie while the amazing San Francisco Symphony performs the soundtrack and music, have you really seen the movie? For the holiday season, expect to find movies like Love Actually, Ghostbusters and A Charlie Brown Christmas. Oh, I can’t wait for that one!

c/o sfsymphony.org

And as with every year, Cirque du Soleil is back in San Francisco with the production of Amaluna, running now through January 22, 2020. Happening at Oracle Park, with another story as told by amazing acrobatic performers and live music. Get your tickets now, these shows are selling out!

Need a friend or two to join you on these amazing wonderland adventures? You should join me as the consul of InterNation’s SF Culture and Arts Group! We check out some beautiful and fun works throughout town on a regular basis.

I entered the cosmos!

Recently, we were invited to the opening of the As Above As Below exhibit at the Menresa Gallery in the St. Ignatius Church of USF. A small but extremely dazzling exhibit bringing astrology, neurology and the arts together. I entered the cosmos and so should you, as you only have until December 15th to check it out. The exhibit is free but be sure to book your tickets online.

We also checked out the season’s must see exhibit, Soul of a Nation, at the de Young Museum. Our group got together last week and were truly immersed in the powerful pieces, from collages and photography to paintings and sculptures. Many in the group did the audio tour which went into further detail, history and relevance of each piece.

Faith Ringgold, 1977 – Alice Neel

Don’t forget the ice rinks are up and running now through January all across the Bay. Head to Union Square Ice Rink and skate around the beautifully lit tree. For the second year, the lovely Winter Park at Civic Center is back. This is an ice rink that the young ones will truly enjoy among the greenery and lights. The Yerba Buena Ice Skating and Bowling Center is not just open during the holidays but all year long! There are many more ice rinks to skate through the Bay Area, which you can find thanks to TimeOut San Francisco.

YUMMINESS ACHIEVED

Nothing truly scares me like hunger. This week, I want to highlight the food banks that begin their busiest time of the year to help secure food for those in need. I urge you all to check out your local food banks, volunteer and donate.

These facilities are literal life lines to many families and individuals in need, especially those affected by the recent wildfires.

If I missed any food bank or resource in the Bay Area, please include them in the comments below.

Disclaimer: This rant was not sponsored or paid for by the events, organizations or restaurants listed unless otherwise noted. If you’d like me to rant about a happening around town, an awesome organization or a yummy eatery for my SF Sundays rant series, please email ha@mshala.co.

Be Like Shabana. Be a Beggar for Life

Be Like Shabana. Be a #BeggarForLife.

Yesterday’s funeral services for our sister and friend Shabana Patel was bittersweet. We gathered amongst hundreds from many communities to support her children and honor her life. We hugged, wept, smiled and laughed remembering her warm hugs, tears, smiles and laughter.

Shabana always deemed herself a #BeggarForLife as she constantly raised funds and volunteered for many charitable organizations. Her reach went beyond Sacramento and the Bay Area when many of us learned she helped found the Ihsan Foundation for West Africa. This project supports a school in Sierra Leone and became her passionate mission. We urge you all to help continue her legacy in supporting this amazing foundation for years to come, Insha’Allah.

May she rest in God’s eternal peace and light, may her legacy live beyond our years, ameen. 🤲🏻

Paid Your Zakat Yet?

If the answer is no, now is the time to do so!

First, what is “zakat”?

Zakat (or Zakah) is an Arabic word now used universally to mean “obligatory charity“. As prescribed to Muslims with means, it’s obligatory to make an annual contribution of 2.5% against all assets one holds for a minimum of one year towards charitable use.

A good example might be one has, after expenses, a $1,000 in the bank, gold or silver worth $5,000 and a car worth $10,000. Their total assets are at $16,000 and they’d pay a minimum of $400 against that.

Have you feared to present before your consultation charities? Then when you do not and Allah has forgiven you, then [at least] establish prayer and give zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. And Allah is Acquainted with what you do.

The Holy Quran, 58:13

Check out this Zakat Calculator by Islamic Relief USA

With fasting, we purify our bodies, minds, spirits as well as our material things. To do so, we sacrifice a bit of everything to bring forward our renewed selves. Fasting from food to bring in good energy. Fasting from day to day worrisome thoughts to bring in happier thoughts (think meditation). Fasting from earthly things to remind ourselves of the bigger picture through worship and Quran reading. To fully complete the month of Ramadan, one must give their zakat before Eid ElFitr (Festival of Breaking Fast), hence the term “Zakat ElFitr” (Zakat of Breaking Fast).

Remember, zakat is also giving your time and reminding others to do their part as well. Many get caught up with work, family gatherings and Eid shopping that a kind reminder is always appreciated. I know I appreciated the one I received yesterday and I hope this post as those I’ve written for the last several years serves as your kind reminder to fulfill your zakat.

Who qualifies to receive zakat?

The idea of zakat is to support those in need. That can be in the form of food, shelter, legal services or any other means to help them live a decent life. What do you have that others may have less of? If you were in a bad situation, what would you need to get out of it. It’s hard to put ourselves in another’s shoes sometimes but one of the main ideas of Ramadan is just that. Living with little food, little energy, but lots of dedication to get through it.

With that said, there are so many organizations, both locally and internationally, out there in need of our zakat to continue the amazing work they do not just in Ramadan but year round. I recommend checking on those that have been highly rated by Charity Navigator, many of which four star rated.

I personally would suggest the following organizations:

  • Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) for their amazing efforts to provide medical aid to children across the Middle East. They are currently supporting refugee children in dire need from Palestine, Yemen and Syria.
  • Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for their dedication to helping local communities at large with legal services, training and support. They are currently supporting those in need through the disastrous border immigration response and the xenophobic Muslim Ban currently in effect.
  • Islamic Relief USA for their excellent disaster relief responses, meal plans across the globe and orphan sponsorship programs. You can select one or multiple programs you want your zakat to go towards.
  • Project Feed SF for feeding neighbors in need right here in San Francisco for over 10 years now. This and other amazing campaigns worthy of your zakat are listed under Launch Good.

Insha’Allah this information is helpful to you all. May God accept our fasts, our prayers and our zakat… ameen.