When a group of 13 volunteers entered Purnell Swett High School in Pembroke on Oct. 14, people openly stared at the words on their blue vests: “Islamic Relief.”
The day before, they’d gotten a call from Hani Hamwi, 29, disaster response team manager at Islamic Relief USA, the largest Muslim charity in America. Founded in 1993, it’s an affiliate of Islamic Relief Worldwide, an international organization that provides disaster aid and development assistance.
Most of the team members are in their 20s. For many, this was their first “disaster deployment.” Several had recently graduated from college; one is a teacher and another is an IT consultant. One is studying for the entrance exam for law school.
On Friday, they flew to North Carolina from California, Oregon, Texas, Washington, D.C., and Florida to help Hurricane Matthew victims in eastern parts of the state. When they entered Purnell Swett, a rural high school that had been transformed into a shelter for more than 800 people displaced from their homes by flooding, some stared and asked them questions.
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