“Yes,” one of them answered, before submitting to numerous follow-up questions about various family members’ global whereabouts.
“Sabrina! You’ve grown so much!” exclaimed a man at another table, as the smiling young woman explained she was not Sabrina, but her sister.
All around, people were greeting one another, eager to catch up before the evening’s programme began, the annual fundraiser of Islamic Relief USA, held this year in Lynnwood, a suburb just north of Seattle, Washington. The spacious banquet hall filled up fast, and soon everyone was seated around tables covered in tablecloths and napkins in black, red, white and green, the colours of the Palestinian flag, with Palestinian flags as centrepieces.
Islamic Relief USA works globally, with a mission to provide “relief and development in a dignified manner regardless of gender, race, or religion,” but the focus of this particular fundraiser was Palestine, and more specifically, as one of the organisers, Murtaza Junepo, said, it was twofold: Palestinian orphans, and water and hygiene in Palestine.
The evening’s programme began with a video overview of Islamic Relief’s work around the world, including in the US, where volunteers and staff had delivered food packages, hygiene kits, blankets, rain ponchos and warm meals to thousands of homeless and low-income Americans, from New Orleans, Louisiana, to Portland, Oregon.
In Seattle, newly arrived Syrian refugees participated in last year’s annual “Day of Dignity,” IRUSA’s largest annual US programme, serving US military veterans, so as to show people “the image of ISIS does not represent us,” as one young volunteer put it.
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