Winters in Gaza

In anticipation of another devastating winter with below freezing temperatures, we decided to push for a new initiative at Zam Zam - a clothing drive for the children of Gaza, Palestine. 

Our initial goal was to raise $15,000, which would go towards purchasing winter bundles for the children of Palestine. Each bundle of clothing included: sweaters, gloves, socks, shoes, and undergarments.

For the past five years, Freshta Kohgadai, Rahat Mawlavizada and I have done similar winter drives, independent of Zam Zam, resulting in $3,000-$13,000 of funds raised per year. Therefore, this year’s goal of $15k seemed relatively attainable. 

Once we had launched our campaign, magic happened. Our initiative spread like wildfire, and the donations poured in due to the Zam Zam following, as well as, the undying generosity of the Palestinian-supporting community, including our partners at PaliRoots and MECA. We achieved our goal in a matter of days. Our goal of $15k became $25k, then $30k and beyond. I can still recall the conversation over the phone with Yusuf, founder of Zam Zam, telling him that we’d close out at $50k, fortunately, I was wrong. 

At the end of our drive, our donors exceeded all of our expectations and we ended the campaign at approximately $67,000, an astonishing $52,000 more than our initial goal. We were able to provide nearly 2,700 Palestinian children with winter bundles which helped them survive their chilling winter. Aside from providing warmth, we provided jobs and stimulated their local economy because all items were manufactured and purchased directly in Gaza. More importantly, we gave these children something more valuable than just clothing; we gave them hope. The priceless expressions of joy indicated that they felt our love from afar. To be able to provide care to nearly 2,700 children is a feeling that I’m still trying to grasp. That’s 2,700 smiles. 2,700 dreams. Lives that may have been sadly cut short, were it not for our supporters. 

On behalf of Freshta, Rahat, and the entire Zam Zam family we are eternally grateful for your contributions. We appreciate all of your efforts whether it was a donation, sharing our campaign, or simply engaging and bringing awareness to the the plight of the Palestinians; you made a difference. 

We would like to share some pictures of the children, which you've protected from frigid temperatures, as they receive their warm clothes. As you see the faces of these angels, our hope is that you feel a sense of fulfillment knowing we achieved this goal together.


Peace and love,
Omar Kohgadai

Bettering Ourselves Through Education

“Take the best of what this country provides, learn something and become someone.” These are the words that echoed through my mind at a very young age, these are the words that fueled my hunger for knowledge, these are the words of my mother. We all would like to better ourselves the best way we know how: education. This the strongest tool to fight misinformation, a tool to fight ignorance, it’s also a way to better ourselves with each page we read, we learn more and we do better.

However, there are some obstacles that appear in our way and it can shape itself in many forms, be it financially or be it opportunity. At Zam Zam Water we decided that it was time to give back to our community here at home; to help those who want to attain a higher education and do better for themselves.

Thanks to our supporters at Paxful and with the use of Bitcoin and our #BuiltWithBitcoin campaign, we were able to designate $15,000 towards our Education is Life program. With the help of the Afghan-American Conference we were able to select three very deserving individuals for these scholarships to be used for their pursuit of higher education.

Here are their stories:

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Susan Naseri

“My name is Susan. But my brothers call me Sose. My brothers implemented a love and need for learning in me, as they worked endless hours, did not complete high school and deprived themselves of education in order to see my success. I am the only individual in my family to attend college and I persist daily, knowing that my brothers surrendered their opportunities for me and remembering that despite my achievements, I am still the same poor girl that wore her brothers’ clothes in kindergarten.

My name is Susan. But you can call me resilient. I carry the pain of poverty, of my family’s lack of education, of my cousins’ inhumane deaths, and of every woman coping with two marginalized societies with me daily so that I never lose sight of myself and my goals”

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Dunia Azizi

“I have come a long way in my life in the face of adversity, and have literally walked through the “valley of shadow of death” as a child of war, so I cannot settle for less. My background and achievements are a proof that I will succeed in my transfer schools, and utilize my education and academic training to pursue my life goal. If I receive the AAC scholarship, I will be able to afford going to school and further continue my education. Continuing my education will empower me to become fully prepared to make a major difference in the lives of other people, especially Afghan girls and refugees.”

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Farzana Nawabi

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Sofia, Farzana's Daughter

“I have lived in various countries, speak many languages and seen many ups and downs in life. One thing that I have held near and dear to my heart was education. I am a strong believer that fame, fortune, and beauty can be taken from an individual, but knowledge is the one power that cannot ever be taken away from me. Doing what I am currently doing is a wonderful example to never give up on your dreams and being a strong role model for women empowerment by showing that if you are dedicated and put your mind into it, anything is possible. Anyone else in my situation would have given up by now, but even though I am not a traditional student by raising my youngest son, being the head of the household, having family responsibilities, as well as social relationships, working 42.5 hours a week and going to school at nights, I consider myself worthy of this scholarship. It has been a long time coming to pursue my dream of receiving this degree and nothing can stop me now.”

These aren’t just words on a page, but the realities they have lived and the difficulties they have overcome. Their stories, their lives, their struggles and their successes have molded them but do not define them. We at Zam Zam are truly honored to be even an iota of support for them on their long journeys ahead.

Ladies, this is to your courage, this is to your resilience and this is to your continued success. Education is life!

....and you ladies are the heartbeat of it all.

- Wais Hamid

Afghan-Americans Coming Together

New York, March 2018

“The Afghan-American Conference is an annual nationwide conference for young community leaders to engage in meaningful dialogue, grow professionally and build relationships.”

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This past weekend over 400 Afghan-Americans came together to build a stronger relationship with the community, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and professionally. AAC provides a platform for Afghan-Americans to engage in conversations about careers, families, societal expectations, and aspirations. Often times we are disconnected from our own communities due to time, location, or being isolated from the community. Having a unique yet similar background, we need each other. We need to support our community because if we do not support one another, then who will? There is more benefit when we all come together and learn from each other. 

Over the course of three days, we learned about the history of Afghanistan from Ali Olomi, inspirational speeches by resilient women speaking about depression and mental health, such as Neghena Hamidi. Hearing a strong and empowered voice about domestic violence from Arash Azizzada, just to name a few of the inspiring individuals. Afghan-Americans have a spectrum of talented and bright young individuals, the conference allows you to experience that in the span of one weekend. We bonded through our stories, experiences, discussions, music, laughter, and Attan (the native dance of Afghanistan). What makes AAC unique is the deep connections you make and the realization that there are so many others just like you.

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After leaving AAC, I felt an overwhelming sense of compassion and love for my community.  

We have more commonalities than differences, we all have similar insecurities and struggles. This was my third time attending AAC, but this year was different. I needed AAC more than it needed me. I have a renewed sense of appreciation and admiration for my peers. It opened my eyes seeing my community be raw and vulnerable enough to share their most painful stories. We listened together, we cried together, and we embraced each other. In those moments all barriers fell down and nothing but compassion came thereafter. It opens your eyes to see the real person and that they too struggle with their own battles. Once we realize how similar and vulnerable we really are, we feel less intimidated by those we may have thought superior. We have be to authentic with ourselves and with our community to be able to move forward. Breaking down barriers shows growth within ourselves and that is progress for our community. Any step you make to improve is progress, but remain consistent and persistent. Now that we have renewed our relationships, any step we take forward, we have the support of our community by our side. As long as you make an effort to do better and be better, that is a victory.

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AAC Mehmaan Nawazi - Afghan Hospitality

The organizing committee continues to do an outstanding job by executing a seamless conference. This is a grassroots effort that is run by volunteers that are committed to helping serve their community. I think that is one of the special qualities of AAC, it makes you feel at home with 400 of your long lost cousins. Individuals that are passionate about bringing people together from around the globe that will hopefully continue for many generations to come. We hear our parents speak about the life they had in Afghanistan and all the amazing work they accomplished, now we have too that but for our generation. 

It’s a beautiful blend of Afghan and American culture. The Afghan hospitality shines through and remains with us all. I loved that there were volunteers attentively waiting at every corner and every turn ready to guide you to your next session or to lunch. There was always someone available to help and ready to serve their guests. After you get over the initial fear of being surrounded by hundreds of Afghans, you see that they’re just like your cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. and you feel at home. 

To end this reflection, I will share a response from my AAC application…

This past fall, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit Rwanda with our team, which will probably be one of the most incredible experiences of my life. In Rwanda, I witnessed what it truly means to be a community. Once enemies and now trusted neighbors, everyone looks after one another, there is genuine concern for their fellow community members. AAC and Zam Zam both represent of this type of community, a place where we learn from one another and empowering our brothers/sisters to grow to their fullest potential. It has taught me the value of collectivity. We have to start at an individual level in order to make an impact on the greater community.

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” —Rumi

-Zarina

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The Best Birthday Present I'll Ever Get

A few months ago I decided to do something truly special for my birthday. I realized I've been nothing short of blessed in my life, I have everything I've ever wanted but there are people who don't. It is 100% our responsibility to take care of others, we will be questioned why we didn't. That's when I reached out to the Zam Zam team.

I decided to start a crowd funding campaign in hopes of building a water well in Rwanda. The possibility of me not raising the funds in time for my birthday was not an option. In 15 days, people made it happen, when that last donation hit, I was on my lunch break, holding back tears, it really tug at my heart, we did it, we built something together that'll benefit not only the people of Rwanda but ourselves. When our time comes, it'll be this water well that'll give us a constant reward we all could use.

My biggest fear was making sure my intentions were clear and for the right reasons, if for some reason I don't get the reward from my creator for it, I at least hope it encourages others to do so and maybe that is what I can be rewarded for.

This water well gave me purpose. In difficult times I'm going to look back and remember what we all did together. I wanted to give everyone sawab (blessings from the creator), we'll all need it. I'm dedicating this to my family and all of you who shared the campaign, donated and prayed for this all to work out. Thank you all for the best birthday present I'll ever get.

- Mustafa

Built with Bitcoin

As an organization, we have always felt the importance of thinking different, remaining open-minded, and not being attached to a set way of doing things. Flowing, like water, has enabled us to grow and impact the world despite the adversity that we face along the way. 

Our newest initiative is Education is Life. The hope for this project has been to develop two schools in two different countries (Rwanda and Afghanistan), highlighting the importance of education. Zam Zam is not just about building water wells. Our mission is to create a better quality of life, and we believe education is an integral part of this complex equation. Solving complex problems doesn’t happen alone. 2017 has marked an important moment in our organization. We have crossed the chasm from being a small organization to having a strong footprint all over the world while still remaining 100% volunteer-based. We pride ourselves on the relationships we build with individuals and organizations, because nothing in this world can be achieved alone.

In September of this year, an organization by the name of Paxful reached out to us in hopes of contributing to our Education is Life project, specifically the school we were building in Rwanda. Paxful, a Peer to Peer Bitcoin marketplace connecting buyers with sellers, has a mission to give working people a simple, fair and secure platform for trading the value of their work. Shortly after the team at Paxful contacted us, Zam Zam sent them a proposal that included the infrastructure of the school, the water well project, and the farming crop system. Paxful approved and sent us the funds in order to begin development of the school. You may be asking; what does a Bitcoin company have to do with Zam Zam Water? Paxful cares about corporate responsibility, and they believe that positive things can happen through Bitcoin. The Education is Life project is not only a model for what can be built with Bitcoin, but is a model for how we create and sustain successful corporate partnerships.

Paxful was updated throughout every step of our development. Upon completion of the school, Paxful intended on visiting the site to see where their contributions went. The team at Zam Zam curated an entire four day trip from the moment Paxful landed in Rwanda to the moment they left. We were able to partner with local organizations to setup a gorilla trekking tour, a tour of the genocide memorial, as well as an entire day at village to get to know the people of Rwanda first-hand. Paxful wasn’t there to observe. They were there to serve. Throughout the trip the team at Paxful got their hands dirty and even contributed physical labor to the water projects. Two months after Paxful donated to the Education is Life cause, they were able to visit the site and realize the potential of partnering with Zam Zam. 

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This is the spirit of partnership. It’s about transparency, authenticity, hard work, and pure intentions. This relationship with Paxful has enabled Zam Zam to venture out into deeper and stronger relationships with potential partners in the future. 

Potential ways your organization can partner with Zam Zam:

  • Corporate Gift
  • Percentage of Sale
  • Round-Up
  • Matching
  • Support Pipeline
  • Support Opperations
  • Gifts In Kind
  • Employee Fundraising
  • Customer Fundraising
  • Community Outreach
  • Media Support and Inventory
  • Gifted Social Media
  • Event Integration

BTC (Bitcoin): 3Q5CESP85hhXTLSy2HDbSyNchb5Bi8D7ku

BCH (Bitcoin Cash): 15YGniLxo77kfMUWGoRNT6ShUQC93MvaXg

If interested in partnering up with Zam Zam, please contact Builtwithbitcoin@zamzamwater.org.

Texas A&M University | Rwanda Trip

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Along with the Zam Zam volunteers, the newest addition to our team, Texas A&M University students joined us on this momentous trip to Rwanda. We are honored to welcome Kathryn, Monica, Erica, and Naveen and the Texas A&M Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department-Water Energy Food Nexus Initiative. Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Rabi Mohtar and Mary Schweitzer. Zam Zam has partnered with Texas A&M in an effort to conduct research and help design a more efficient and sustainable irrigation/filtration system in Rwanda.

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Top left: Kathryn Bickley, Monica Zuniga, Erica Ryan, & Naveen Memon

Through the research they have conducted, we will have more information and alternative solutions to maintain an irrigation and potable water system for our school and community gardens located in the villages we serve in Bugesera, Rwanda. The project is ongoing as they continue to compile their research, the projected outcomes will be as follows: 

Project Deliverables

  • Design and produce schematics for a potable water system and irrigation system for a small crop field
  • Develop a plan for irrigation maintenance and timing of crop field
  • Develop a plan for maintenance of the potable water system
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It was our absolute pleasure to have Texas A&M a part of this journey, Kathryn, Monica, Erica, and Naveen are great assets to our team. We are grateful to be able to benefit from their knowledge and expertise. Their presence enriched our experience in Rwanda. We look forward to our future projects with the Aggies and to see the impact they will have on the villages in Rwanda. Without a doubt, they have already made an impact on our team and the people of Rwanda.

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Thank you Aggies, Gig’em!

God's Home - Experiences From Rwanda By Omar Kohgadai

Not too long ago, the Zam Zam team took a trip to Rwanda - a country where your support has helped us build 6 water projects and a school. The purpose was twofold: first, to grow as individuals by meeting to the people that we serve and secondly, to bring back content that forges a connection between the people that we serve and our donors. As a member of the Creative team, it was my undertaking to bridge this gap. I was tasked with responsibility of capturing not just our projects but stories from the people. Stories from a different country that the rest of the world needed to hear.

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On our first day there we visited an old church that is now a historical genocide site. The story is that a large crowd of Tutsis sought refuge inside the church, all to be crossed by their Reverend, who informed the Hutu authorities to come and ransack the church. I walked in and immediately felt the presence of not just death but sheer savagery. The clothing of the victims were intentionally left there as a reminder. Not to mention the countless caskets and skulls that bore visible machete ruptures. As I walked out, emotionally taxed and regretful of what I allowed myself to see, I could hear the soothing sounds of children playing. There was a kindergarten school adjacent to the church and the kids all raced to high-five Yusuf. It was the starkest of contrasts. A polarizing interplay of life and death. Joy and pain. Past and future. Proof that, no matter what occurs, life goes on and runs its course. The cycle seizes for none. Ultimately, no tragedy can ever outrace time.

In the picture above you’ll see a former perpetrator from the genocide (left) next to a victim (right). Believe it or not, these two individuals are now friends. They even take turns watching each other's children. After the Genocide, Rwanda launched an unprecedented reconciliation initiative where the perpetrators were to make amends and gradually be reestablished into the fold of society. The level of forgiveness displayed by the Rwandan victims is beyond comprehension. It’s almost hard to believe that the human heart is capable of such unparalleled mercy. We are too familiar with the evil capacities of the heart. Turn on the news and you’ll see a story that will make you lose hope in all of mankind. Rwandans have exposed us to the other end of the heart spectrum. At that moment I thought about all the grudges I have held with people. They had never felt more trivial. The genocide has been reconciled, however, Rwanda does not bury its past. They own it and will never forget even if they forgave. Even though the perpetrator has made amends and found atonement, the emotional scars of having spilt blood were still visible in his pensive facial expression and tight shoulders. Moving onto the victim - though she has pardoned, the emotional baggage of having lost both her parents in the genocide is still visible in her captivating eyes.

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I’ve always wondered how a society could mobilize thousands of people to kill mercilessly. After this trip, I found it even more puzzling as to how a society could mobilize thousands of people to pardon those very same killers. Between these two questions, we can find an answer for both. Human beings are born pure. Hate however, is a construct. Hate is the ingredient injected into peoples mind that cause them to lose all decency and humanity. If it can be taught, then it can be untaught. If it can be injected, then it can be extracted and replaced with love, which was the primary ingredient that the Rwandan government injected into the victim’s hearts when they encouraged them to pardon their perpetrators.

As a first generation Afghan American, I come from land that has also seen far too much grief. With nearly 40 years of nonstop conflict with no foreseeable end, it’s hard to for me to imagine the light at the end of the tunnel. Rwanda serves as an exemplary model for how to move forward with conflict. Their reconciliation initiative paved way for them to heal from such a devastating catastrophe. Had Afghanistan, or any other war-torn country, taken a similar approach, then perhaps the situation would have been different?

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Rwandans have turned the most insurmountable of tragedy into triumph. They’re characterized by their warmth and cheer. Every last one of them has a story, from the politician, to the village chief, to the basket weaver that you passed by on the street. Their stories are engraved on their faces. When you look in their eyes, you see their past. All of the bloodshed. The grief. The heartbreaking tribulation. Conversely, when you look at their smiles, you see their future. The optimism. The hope. Their unwavering value for life.

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When we first landed, our tour guide said, “God travels the world all day, but He always comes home to Rwanda.” Initially this quote did not resonate with me. However, as I departed back home, I looked out the airplane window into the green and hilly landscape, one final time, and it all made sense. This is His home. This is God’s home.

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Newfound Appreciation - Experiences From Rwanda By Kathryn Bickley

The opportunity to accompany the Zam Zam team to Rwanda was one of the most impactful experiences I have ever had. I left the trip with a genuine respect and admiration for the people and the country of Rwanda. Even after enduring so much hardship and tribulation, they were still some of the happiest and friendliest people I have ever met. Hearing their stories about how access to clean water had changed so many aspects of their lives, I left with a newfound appreciation for the work Zam Zam is doing and a desire to make our project as impactful as possible. I am so thankful to have been able to have been a part of this trip.

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Collective Countenance - Experiences From Rwanda By Naveen Menon

Would I be welcome? Would it be difficult to assimilate to the country’s culture? These were questions that wracked my mind as we flew to Rwanda. However, as soon as we began to explore the country with Zam Zam, I could see how wrong my preconceived notions were. Never in my travels have I experienced a culture so inviting and met a people of such genuine kindness and warmth. It was initially difficult for me to rationalize how a people that have faced and still encounter such hardships could be so joyful and compassionate. Their collective countenance has forever left a profound impact on me. The people in Rwanda are some of the most deserving people I have ever had the pleasure to meet. The dedication of Yusuf and the whole Zam Zam team was clearly displayed every minute I spent with them.

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Privilege - Experiences From Rwanda By Erica Ryan

Aside from forever changing my world view and further highlighting the privileges in my life which I all too often take for granted, there was another much deeper and more profound effect that is difficult to explain. There were moments of intense sadness juxtaposed by moments of inexplicable joy. I shed tears of both pain and laughter, and I made connections with people I hope will last a lifetime. The people of Rwanda were immensely kind, forgiving and welcoming. Zam Zam’s dedication to serving these communities by creating greater access to water is truly making a difference for these incredible people. I would definitely recommend people to get involved in any way that they can, it will truly change your life in the best way possible.

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