In this week’s “What a Relief!” podcast episode, host B.C. Dodge welcomes Islamic Relief USA CEO Sharif Aly to hear firsthand about his recent travels to visit IRUSA programs in Turkey and Lebanon in January 2019, which mainly serve refugees.
Sharif shares insight about how going to the field to do humanitarian work is critical to truly understanding the people being served. He explains that you cannot truly serve a person “without first getting to know them.”
Islamic Relief in Turkey
Islamic Relief’s office in Istanbul, Turkey, (as well as in other places) in fact serves as the organization’s Syrian office. That’s why Turkey is not listed on the drop down menu on the IRUSA.org website; it’s listed under Syria.
The organization, like many others, cannot work inside Syria due to de-banking and de-risking (meaning humanitarian organizations cannot send funds inside Syria), but Islamic Relief USA still works with Syrian refugee populations in neighboring countries.
The Islamic Relief office in Syria is still functioning; but cannot receive funds from IRUSA at this time.
Sharif shares that when he met Syrian refugees in Turkey—many of whom were orphans or widows—he felt that he only wished he could help more and describes their need as “tremendous.”
During Sharif’s visit, there were heavy rains that severely affected the plane ride and resulted in up to six feet of standing water in places. No one would wish for their family to have to survive in impoverished conditions, let alone in such harsh winter weather.
Islamic Relief in Lebanon
In Lebanon, Sharif visited Baqaa Valley, a beautiful region, yet encountered there refugee camps who were using plastic sheets alone as protection from snow and ice. In many camps, standing water remained as a daily struggle and constant health risk.
Many of these families have lived in these conditions for nearly a decade.
After visiting, Sharif shares, “After that, I can never stop now on this misson.”
Sharif and fellow IRUSA staff were also able to visit the “No Child Left Behind” school project in Lebanon, which is a free-standing school build and funded by IRUSA that is now fully sustainable. Many children who are refugees are now attending the school; the project is changing an entire community for the better.
Listen to to hear further details about Sharif’s experience and about the individuals he met.
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“What a Relief!” is the official podcast of Islamic Relief USA. Hosted by digital media specialist B.C. Dodge, IRUSA’s “What a Relief!” puts a human face on what’s going on in the world and how you can enact positive change in it. New episodes every week!
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