By Fatima Ali
On Sunday, September 14th I headed to my third iLead meeting of the 2014-2015 program year. I knew this session would be on service so I expected to explore the ideas behind community service and learn about how others have improved their communities. However, when I left, I felt empowered knowing that I would have the chance to do the same with my peers.
At this session, we started by breaking up into small groups and discussing what community service means to us individually. It was interesting to hear the dynamic volunteering efforts my fellow iLeaders were involved in: one student volunteers at The River, where she helps disabled children explore their interest in the performing and visual arts, while another volunteered at a children's orphanage in Ecuador. Along with discussing where we've volunteered, we also discussed how we felt volunteering affected us positively and how volunteering helped us grow into better people. We all felt that, when we volunteer, we leave with a sense of purpose and fulfillment knowing that we can make a difference.
Later that day, we heard from Ghulam Kehar, Executive Director at Amaanah Refugee Services. Ghulam, a socially-minded entrepreneur, took his community service aspirations and built a successful career out of them. With the help of a few friends, he built up Amaanah Refugee Services, a nonprofit dedicated to helping refugees in Houston become acclimated to their new surroundings. He started out small, doing things as simple as taking groceries to families that needed them. It was inspiring to see how his seemingly small efforts grew into an established nonprofit organization. Upon closing, he shared that if we have an idea or a dream that we want to achieve, we should get it started and build momentum – once an idea has momentum, it can go further than you ever expected.
Inspired by our group discussions and Ghulam Kehar's presentation, we decided that we wanted to take action and contribute to our community as well. After a great deal of consideration, we decided that we wanted to gather supplies to furnish the homes of refugees arriving in the country. Our class of 25 students will split into teams and go out into our schools, houses of worship and communities centers to engage others in this drive to benefit refugees. Once we have collected all of the items, we hope to go to the new homes of the refugees and furnish them. This way when the refugees arrive in the US to begin their new lives, they will walk into a welcoming home. By working together towards a common goal, our iLead class hopes to make a positive impact on the lives of many, giving back to our community and helping it become a better place!
Fatimah is a current iLead student and a junior at Carnegie Vanguard High School. The views expressed in this post are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of Interfaith Houston.