ASB Update: Shamole Ahmed and Farhan Iqbal, 2013 Site Leaders

The MSA-ers on Spring Break in Virginia kept themselves busy getting to know the area and working with Feeding America, but every now and then they took the time to share stories and musings about what they’ve been up to. In our final 2013 MSA ASB post, Shamole Ahmed and Farhan Iqbal, our two site leaders, share some closing thoughts about the trip.

As you’ve probably heard by now, this year’s Muslim Students’ Association’s ASB was an amazing experience. Besides being able to enjoy the Southern hospitality provided by the Grandin Court Baptist Church, we got to work with Feeding America in their Southwest Virginia center, where we cleaned, sorted, and packaged food to be distributed to food banks nearby.

Others have already mentioned many amazing parts of our trip together. We would like to recap some of it, adding our own perspective about our work, our journey, and most importantly, the people we were with.

It didn’t take longer than the car ride down to Roanoke, Virginia, for many of us to get well acquainted with each other. While some of us may have known each other before the trip, most of us didn’t really know each other. The car ride down was a good opportunity for all of us to have to interact with each other more.

The first thing we did upon arrival was to attend a church service, which Sarah Khan recapped. For many of us, it was our first time attending a religious service of a different faith. It was eye opening for many of us, and we highly encourage people to go out and attend services of a different faith. Whether it be at a church, synagogue, temple, or another house of worship, you will likely learn something new and have a good experience.

What we got out of the service was complemented by the hospitality that the members of the Grandin Court Baptist Church (GCBC) displayed. Some of our ASB-ers agreed that never in our lives had we been treated so well by people who 1) weren’t family and 2) didn’t even know us. As the other blog posts mention, we found baked goods in the kitchen for us every day after work, and the church members even cooked us dinner one night. However, it wasn’t the tangibility of their kindness that shone through. It was the fact that they wanted to sit down and get to know us as individuals; that they took the time out of their day to come chat with us on a regular basis – different people on different days, just checking in to see how we were doing. It was as if we had left our pampered lives in Ann Arbor to be even more pampered in Roanoke. They spoiled us–that’s for sure. And we did nothing to deserve that level of hospitality.

As our work week began, we started to appreciate the size of our group. The 14 of us  were able to develop a somewhat substantial connection with everyone else. We tried our best to keep ourselves all together, and we felt the benefits. We were always in the same places, doing the same thing, eating the same food, and so on. It made us feel this sense of brosterhood that would probably not have existed had we separated for anything. The most beneficial part of being together, though, was definitely the ability to pray five times a day together. Prayer in groups is beautiful, and it is even more beautiful when it is with such an awesome group of people. Alhamdulillah.

Our work itself was indirectly rewarding. We had cleaned, sorted, and packaged food to be distributed to food banks in the Southwest Virginia area. It was somewhat tedious, but I think most of us got through it by reminding each other about the impact we would be making. Ideally, we wanted to see our work benefiting someone directly, but this was definitely affecting a larger group of people, which is what matters more than our own personal selfishness of physically seeing the rewards of our efforts.

Overall, the bonds we made with each other by cooking together, praying together, and, well, doing everything else together, are bonds we hope will only strengthen as time goes on. We enjoyed being able to get away from Ann Arbor, and we encourage everyone to capitalize on this opportunity in the future, whether it be through the Muslim Students’ Association or going on one of Ginsberg’s separate ASB trips.

ASB Update: Reham Khan

The MSA-ers on Spring Break in Virginia have been busy getting to know the area and working with Feeding America, but every now and then they take the time to share stories and musings about what they’ve been up to. Reham Khan, one of the ASB-ers this year, recalls the team’s first day of volunteer work with Feeding America.

Salaam Everyone!

Today [ed: Tuesday], after a day spent settling into the picturesque city of Roanoke we made our journey to the nearby town of Salem where our partner organization, Feeding America, is located. We began our day early at 9 AM when we met James, who showed us the ropes and got us hyped for a busy day of work. I have to say that James is by far one of the most genuinely enthusiastic individuals that I have met. His energy was infectious and the smile on his face alone was enough to show how much pride he took in his work at the distribution center. That heightened the group’s morale and made us all look forward to our first day.

As a group we spent the day sorting and packaging food products that were to be distributed to those in need in Southwest Virginia. Before coming to our worksite and even during our breaks we reflected on the importance of why we were here in the first place. The opportunity to serve those less fortunate was humbling even if we weren’t interacting with the people receiving the food products firsthand. Truthfully speaking, the first few hours of work were especially difficult. Many of us were asked to check expiration dates on food products and throw them away. Within a short time we had filled several boxes with food that was going to be thrown out. I felt conflicted seeing how much was being wasted but at the same time knowing that there had to be a level of quality control with the process–after all, this would eventually be part of a meal on someone’s dinner plate. And with that in mind we sought to renew our intentions to help others for the sake of Allah (swt) for our remaining days in Virginia.

By the end of our shift, many of us were exhausted thanks to late nights playing Cranium but we were treated to a fantastic fajita dinner by Tuesday’s group. If we thought the church couldn’t be any more hospitable than they already were, we were wrong. That night we got back to our rooms only to find space heaters and extra blankets for our use. We went to bed that night being grateful for our gracious hosts and anticipating what the next day would bring!

ASB Update: Kareem Hakim

The MSA-ers on Spring Break in Virginia have been busy getting to know the area and working with Feeding America, but every now and then they take the time to share stories and musings about what they’ve been up to. Kareem Hakim, one of the ASB-ers this year, shares what it was like to explore Roanoke with the help of a tour guide.

Bismillah Ar-Rahman Ar-Rahim

Asalaamu alaikum,

Before we began our service for the Roanoke community with Feeding America, our group spent some time reflecting about what we are grateful for. Two of our ASB-ers led a nighttime dialogue in which we tried putting into perspective the way we perceive what we have been blessed with.

The day had been an engaging and active one, highlighted by a tour of the city and our first team-cooked dinner. The tour, led by a couple members of our hosts from the Grandin Court Baptist Church, took us around Salem and the greater Roanoke area, and gave us a better sense of the community we would be serving. The city was full of color and life, and we learned of its rich history and tight-knit community. At multiple points throughout our tour, I was in awe of the sites I witnessed, and was blown away by the beauty of the area. Our tour guide was actually a realtor in the city. The tour, at least for me, was pretty much a pitch to move to Roanoke, and by the end of it I was sold. I could see that same enamoration with Roanoke in the rest of the group, all of whom enjoyed seeing the town and were eager to learn more. The tour wrapped up with a trip to the mountains to see the breathtaking view near the Roanoke Star. The scene was peaceful and almost surreal, and if we could have we probably would’ve spent the remainder of our day there. However, we had other activities to attend to, and so our stay at the top was short-lived.

Later that day, our first group of cooks took over the kitchen and made a delectable stir-fry meal for all 14 of us. The scene was one of camaraderie and great teamwork, and this initiative to have us participants cook our own meals has been a humbling and beneficial experience. Not to mention the food was amazing!

We used the day’s experiences to reflect on the many blessings we have in our daily lives, and the importance of being grateful for what we have been given, most of which we didn’t earn but instead were given. We grew more aware of the amount of privilege and blessing we have. We have supportive families who raised us and provide for us, we’re able to partake in this ASB without any financial or physical restrictions, and we have access to something as miniscule as hot water to shower with on a daily basis (just not in Roanoke). For me, the trip around the city made me extremely aware of how blessed I am to be able-bodied and have control over all my senses and bodily functions. Taking in the sights and sounds of the city was amazing, and it made me cognizant of the fact of how deprived and dejected I would feel if I was deficient in even one of my senses. We made sure to reinforce this reflection with dhikr, thanking Allah (swt) for allowing us to partake in this wonderful trip thus far and providing for us in so many aspects of our daily lives, many of which we fail to recognize in the craziness of our routines.

InshAllah we all can continue to remember all the blessings, undeserved, that we have been allotted by God, and we can use them as motivation to serve His creation and remember Him throughout our lives. And we ask Allah (swt) to accept the service we are doing in Virginia this week for His sake, and to enter all of us, those on the trip and those not able to attend, into the highest of Heavens without judgment. Please remember us in your prayers, and enjoy the rest of your spring break!