Good morning, friends! If it’s Wednesday, that must mean it’s time for some … Good People!!! Today I would like to introduce you to Najah Bazzy.
In 1996, she was working as a nurse in Detroit, Michigan, when she visited an Iraqi refugee family to help care for their dying 3-month-old infant. The family had recently immigrated to the U.S., and she knew the situation would be difficult, but she wasn’t prepared for what she encountered.
“There, at the house, I got my first glimpse of poverty. They absolutely had nothing. There was no refrigerator, there was no stove, there was no crib. The baby was in a laundry basket, laying on clean white towels. I was so devastated by that. I decided that this wasn’t going to happen on my watch.”
That day, Bazzy and her family gathered all the furniture and household items that they could — including a crib — and delivered everything to the family. And thus began Najah Bazzy’s life as a philanthropist … a good people.
When the infant died, and the family was unable to bury him, Najah raised funds from the community to provide him with a proper burial. Witnessing this family’s sorrowful experience and shocking living conditions, Najah was inspired and determined to harness the community’s efforts to help struggling families. She asked community members to donate furniture, food, clothing, and household goods.
For years, Bazzy ran her goodwill effort from her home, transporting donated goods in her family’s minivan. Eventually, her efforts grew into Zaman International, a nonprofit that now supports impoverished women and children of all backgrounds in the Detroit area. The group has helped more than 250,000 people.In 2004, Zaman International – Hope for Humanity officially became an NGO committed to addressing basic needs and empowering marginalized women and children through relief and development programs.
Detroit is the poorest major city in the U.S., with over half the children living in poverty. Today, Zaman operates from a 40,000-square-foot facility in the suburb of Inkster. The group’s warehouse offers aisles of food, rows of clothes and vast arrays of furniture free to those in need. The group’s case managers help clients access housing and other services.
“We work to stabilize them as quickly as we can. Women walk in and they are in desperate need, and they walk out with their basic needs met. Our mothers are able to come. They get a voucher and have the same dignified shopping experience as somebody else, but do not have to pay for it. It’s about dignity.”
Zaman also offers clients free education and job placement, as well as vocational training through its sewing and culinary arts programs. The goal is to help women become self-sufficient.
“We’re a one-stop shop. We help our clients move from a ‘hand out’ to a ‘hands on,’ because when you’re in crisis … the idea of how to get yourself out of it is overwhelming.”
Let’s hear a bit from Najah Bazzy about how she got from ‘Point A’ to ‘Point B’ …
“Zaman began helping refugees during the post-Gulf War when we had a tremendous amount of refugees from Iraq coming into the Detroit area. But after a few years, I saw another population that was even more marginalized: the single mom, trying to raise her children with nothing.
Now, we focus on women with children living well below the poverty line. Most of our families make below $10,000 a year. We still help refugees, but we now have a large African American population. It’s open to everybody. It’s not based on faith or culture. All that matters here is: What do you need?
Our organization is a little mini-United Nations. Watching African American and Arab and Jewish and gay and people with disabilities and everyone working together — I just love that. For me, that’s the highest expression of faith — just bringing people together. Islam is full of verses about caring for humankind, but I think I would be this human being no matter what faith tradition I followed. Because in my heart of hearts I believe we are one human family.
There is a lot of risk in doing the work that I do, as a visible Muslim woman in hijab. I’ve had death threats. I’ve had to have protection placed around me. It’s an uncomfortable feeling. To know that you can put out love, but there are people out there who will judge love, this saddens me. I want to make every breath count, so I can’t fear those who choose hate. I can only control the love I have in my heart and choose that love.”
What started on such a small scale now provides so much to so many. Najah Bazzy is very much hands-on in Zaman International, and they offer so many programs that it makes my head spin! To name just a few …
- Plots for Tots – Infant Burial Program – assists families that cannot afford a proper burial for their fetus, infant or toddler.
- O.O.S.T. Vocational and Literacy Training Program – offers women the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their families by learning job-ready sewing and culinary arts skills and English language literacy.
- Client Choice Food Pantry and Mobile Hot Food Pantry – An official partner of Gleaners Community Food Bank, Zaman’s Client Choice Food Pantry allows families to choose culturally appropriate and nutritionally balanced food each month. The Mobile Hot Food Pantry delivers meals, created by the Culinary Arts Kitchen, to home-bound families in need.
And in other news …
- Zaman gives more than 1,700 backpacks to low-income kids with funding from Ford
- Zaman’s literacy program receives $27,000 in WIOA funding
- Zaman promotes community-based education at University of Notre Dame conference
And it goes on … and on. What started as one woman who wanted to help out in her community, has turned into a massive project that has helped more than a quarter-million people. My thumbs are up to Ms. Najah Bazzy for caring so much about people.
A brief update about a previous ‘good people’
You may remember back in May, when I wrote about Robert F. Smith, who gave the commencement speech at Morehouse College and shocked the graduating class by announcing that he would be paying off the student debt of the entire 2019 graduating class. Well, now, he says that he is paying off the debt of the students’ parents as well!
See, folks … there are good people in this world … people who care more about others than they care about their own personal wealth. These are the people that give us hope for a brighter future. These are the real heroes in this world.