HCI 32nd Annual Dinner unites for positive changeWritten by Noman Bajwa
Lively dance performances by a First Nations group and a Lebanese trio were among the highlights of Human Concern International's 32nd Annual Dinner.
Although the volume for the show was a little louder than some people would have liked, the event was enjoyed by most of those in attendance. HCI Events and Media Coordinator Mahmuda Khan says she received overwhelmingly positive feedback from many of the over 360 guests at the banquet. The majority were pleased with the opportunity to hear about new HCI initiatives from speakers at the event.
The theme of the Sept. 28 event was “harnessing love and care through community building”, says Ms. Khan. Acknowledging that twenty per cent of the organization's donors are non-Muslim, Ms. Khan emphasized that HCI is consciously promoting a cross cultural, multi-faith focus. Or as HCI Executive Director Kaleem Akhtar put it in his speech, “the importance of uniting people of all races and religions in bringing positive change.”
The keynote speaker of the evening was Dr. Kathy Bullock, a professor at the University of Toronto who accepted Islam in 1994. In the wake of the recent propaganda film “The Innocence of Muslims” and the widespread havoc it has generated in the Muslim world, Dr. Bullock urged the audience to consider how Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, would react to such an attack. The reaction should be one of “kindness and calm, rather than unbridled anger and violence,” Dr. Bullock counselled.
Another of the evening's guest speakers was Dr. Abdul Majid Haddad, who launched HCI's Middle East office in 1989. Working in Lebanon from 1989 to 1995, Dr. Haddad spoke about how HCI assisted thousands of disadvantaged groups in Lebanon's post civil war period. The Lebanese Civil War of 1975 to 1990 caused over 120,000 deaths. Dr. Haddad pointed out that since early 2000, HCI has expanded to provide assistance in Syria, Sudan, Egypt, Iraq, Palestine and Jordan.
Dr. Haddad explained that HCI's goal is to help families transition from relief to recovery quickly through innovative programs. He added that HCI emphasizes cross-cultural understanding while training communities to build self sustaining programs. “We want to help people to help themselves,” said Dr. Haddad.
Other speakers during the evening included HCI Program Officer Garnayl Abdi, HCI Montreal Director Yazan Nasreddin, and HCI Toronto Director Jaafar Dirie.
As detailed in HCI's 2011-12 annual report, the daily functions of the organization can be divided into eight categories: emergency relief, water and sanitation, economic empowerment, empowering women, healthcare, education and skills development, Canadian initiatives and the child sponsorship program.
HCI Project Development Officer Heidi Vallinga spoke about how HCI has provided loans to farmers and small business owners in countries such as Egypt and Pakistan. These individuals have been able to sustain their families through this economic assistance and in many cases have already fully paid back their HCI loans.
Other speakers emphasized HCI's education and skill development component. This component of HCI's mandate facilitates school building and skills training for children and adults with the aim of creating self-sufficient communities. This component is active in Haiti, Pakistan, India, Kenya, Bangladesh and Somalia.
Water development projects are also a key cornerstone of HCI's mission. Through water filtration projects, underground water pipe systems, water purification techniques and the building of deep wells and boreholes. HCI has helped thousands of families in developing nations such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Chechnya, Indonesia, Lebanon, Somalia, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India.
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My name is Noman Bajwa. I have been involved in the journalistic profession, on and off, since 1987. I graduated from Penn State University with a Bachelor's degree in English Literature and received a Master’s degree in Journalism from Temple University in Philadelphia. I was a reporter for several newspapers in Southeastern Pennsylvania, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, for fifteen years. I served in the position of Civil Rights Coordinator for CAIR's national office in Washington, DC from 2005 to 2007. I have been a contributor to the Muslim Link since its inception in 2004.