Going back to school will be a little easier for 500 Queens students and their families, thanks to a program that came to a Jamaica mosque Sunday afternoon.
The New York chapter of the grassroots Islamic Circle of North America came to Masjid Alhamdulillah at 121-03 Sutphin Blvd. to distribute backpacks full of school supplies to children in time for the first day of school.
Timed to fall during the holy month of Ramadan, the giveaway was a joyous occasion for the appreciative families who took advantage of the event.
“It coincides with Ramadan, when people fast during the day for a month so they are already feeling what it’s like be less fortunate, and also elevating their spirituality. Ramadan is also a month when people are encouraged to do whatever they can to help others,” said Shahid Farooqi, one of the event’s organizers in Queens and a member of the New York ICNA chapter’s dawah committee, which focuses on community outreach.
The event arises from the teachings of Islam as Muslims believe it is recorded in the Quran: “Do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, the poor, the neighbor who is near of kin, the neighbor who is a stranger.
The backpacks came fully equipped with a ruler, pencils, markers, a sharpener, scissors and notebooks — covering many of the essentials for a young child starting a new school year. Held in states from Maryland to New York — where the group hosted giveaways in all five boroughs, Westchester County, Yonkers and Long Island — the event was funded by individual donations to the ICNA.
Umer Alam, a member of the New York chapter of ICNA, said the giveaway program has been very popular.
“We were surprised by the large attendance,” he said. “This only implies that these initiatives are in high demand due to the current economic downturn and the high prices of school supplies.”
Last year the group gave only 1,500 stuffed bookbags away, but this year the number is many times that amount and the number of locations it is serving has expanded from Yonkers to a wide swath of the New York City metropolitan area.
“Bringing a smile to the faces of all children” is the aim of the event, Farooqi said.
“For every parent, children are the most important part of their life and Islam focuses on family life,” he said. “So we thought we should help children because when they get the bags they will be happy and so will less fortunate parents who are wondering how they will pay for school supplies.”
For more information about the ICNA, its giveaways or volunteering for the group, visit icna.org.
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cn