Like most of our narratives, being born and raised in this hemisphere of the globe has placed me on a pretty high scale when it comes to the levels of privilege around the world. As an adult, I’ve done my fair share of zakat every year; always made sure to give a few dollars to the homeless I come across on the streets, sometimes even buy them a meal if time permits; I make sure to extend my help to distant family members at times of need (and actually act upon it); I put money in the donation box every time I attend the masjid; I attend funerals and pay my respects to the elderly; I pray as much as I can; and I’m genuinely a kind person (sounds so horrible to say that about yourself; please bear with me for the sake of proving my point)--but I mean, that’s about it. That’s where it ends. Give or take a few, that’s where it ends for the most of us.
For those of you who know me, you know how close my sister Hila and I are. When it comes to our free time that's not occupied with work, we’re pretty much doing something together. Whether it's going out for a meal to try out the newest mom and pop shop, a quick hike up the nearest canyon, or simply going over our next “big” idea for a film that came to one of us the night before in our sleep; one could say we’re basically attached at the hip.
However, in the past few years there's been a decline in our hangouts due to other commitments, which is totally understandable--we’re growing up, we have different social circles, we have different priorities. But one thing that always left me perplexed was when I would see Hila working on Zam Zam related work at two in the morning or missing out on a movie night (ok, that one really hurt) because she had a meeting scheduled with the Zam Zam Creative team and needed to dedicate her time to the organization instead of me.
At times, I legit thought she was the only crazy one (apart from Yusuf) dedicating her free time to this cause. It’s just another charity. There are a million of others out there. No charity has ever saved any country. And this is where it gets bad; Just another organization with big egos who are trying to place their mark on the world for the sake of making themselves feel better when we all know these third world countries don’t need non-profits, they need a structure in the country itself; complete waste of money and time.
After all, it's just another charity organization.
Oh bacheem, was I wrong.
Due to our steady decline in sister bonding time, Hila had been after me to fly up to the Bay Area so I could attend the 2018 Zam Zam Gala with her this year. “Come on man, it’s just one night, for a few hours. We could totally hang out the other nights and be tourists around San Francisco!”...she got me there. All those years of visiting the Bay as a child, but only driving through Fremont where we made the obligatory pilgrimage to Maiwand Market, stacking up on enough bread to feed all of Orange County and then visiting random Khala Jaans and Kaka Jaans in the outskirts of the Bay had left an unimaginable void in my heart. This sounded like the perfect opportunity to fix that. Ok, lets do it.
Before I knew it, we were landing in San Francisco on the Friday night before the Gala. Hila, will your friends like me? What if they think i'm weird? Why did I agree to come. Jesus, my social anxiety is on another level right now. Should've stayed back. Yep. Wait, Who Cares? Only going to see them for a bit. We’ll be spending most of our time out and about. We all know how that ended. Nothing touristy. In fact, Hila lied, ditched me and spent all weekend--up till the Gala--dedicated to editing Zam Zam’s newest highlight video, again. *Que Michelle from Full House: HOW RUDE*
But actually, no; not rude at all.
While she was away from me prepping for the event or mingling amongst the guest at the Gala, I finally began to slowly understand her. This madness was all starting to make sense. Hila wasn’t the only crazy one. In fact, every single volunteer was just as crazy as her; they all had embedded their souls deep into the cause and were essential pieces that shaped the Zam Zam puzzle together.
And to every single volunteer at Zam Zam, whether we managed to find the time and have a deep conversation amongst those few nights we were there, or seeing how you interacted with one another from afar, I saw how dedicated you were and it left me in awe. Thanks to your all nighters, skipping out on your free time and dedicating your absolute all to Zam Zam, The Imam Bukhari Orphan Center will have their doors open for another year. Another year to serve 300 beautiful souls. Another year to hear 300 prayers. Another year for 300 more stories.
This isn’t just another charity. This is a group of individuals wanting to create a strong foundation for children in these underprivileged areas. This is a group of individuals who are going to make sure these children become well rounded individuals. This is a group of individuals who care about where these orphans will be in 30 years. This is a group of individuals who care for the impact this will put on children's lives and the future of the world.
I am so proud of you guys and thank you all for allowing me to experience this with you. At times when I think about my experience, I feel like I went on some sort of spiritual pilgrimage. I now understand it shouldn’t end with just the basics. Passing out a few bucks to someone in need or doing tasks that we are morally obligated shouldn’t make us feel like we’ve done enough. It’s never enough. We just have to surround ourselves with the right people to understand that. The energy, the aura, the love, the compassion, the moments of wanting to strangle each other, the tears, the pimple that formed on my right cheek out of the blue was all worth it.
I planned on being a tourist while watching the ripples of the Bay hit the shoreline near the Golden Gate Bridge whilst taking nice Instagram photos, but instead I ended up being a tourist at Zam Zam and finally realized Hila wasn’t crazy after all.
To my sister, thank you for dragging me across the Pacific. It is safe to say, Zam Zam’s ripples had reached me.
All Photos Provided by Masood Mawlavizada from Amanah Photos