Students raise funds for earthquake relief

Lauren Pond

In 20 minutes, Rabeah Sabri gathered $680 for a relief mission to victims of the magnitude 7.6 earthquake in Pakistan during a nightly iftaar dinner at Parkes Hall.

Muslim-cultural Students Association members collected money at Tuesday’s Ramadan dinner and traveled to Wal-mart, said Sabri, a Weinberg senior. They bought 23 blankets and 82 sweat shirts and sweat pants to send to victims of the earthquake, which killed at least 23,000 people in Pakistan and India.

“Reality sort of hits at that point, and you start to feel more connected to these people, just in the very act of buying clothes for them,” Sabri said.

McSA members’ extended families escaped harm during the earthquake, said co-president Malika Bilal, a Medill senior. Helping victims makes NU Muslims feel closer to members of the Muslim community who were not so fortunate, especially during the month of Ramadan, she said.

“This is a month where all Muslims are fasting, so it brings you closer together anyway,” Bilal said. “And the fact that our brothers and sisters in religion are suffering, it drives that point home so much more.”

McSA members can envision themselves in the victims’ situation because so many of them have roots in the affected countries, Bilal added.

“That’s a push for helping, because it could have been their families,” she said.

Sabri, whose extended family lives near Islamabad, Pakistan, said she received an e-mail Tuesday saying that an international airline would be sending planes full of supplies from O’Hare International Airport to Pakistan for a relief mission. She then sent out an e-mail over the McSA listserv offering to buy supplies on members’ behalf.

At that night’s iftaar, Sabri made an announcement that members would be going shopping for supplies. Within minutes, she had raised enough from the approximately 100 students who usually attend the iftaar dinner to buy the blankets, sweat shirts, and sweat pants.

“The money just poured,” Bilal said. “People just reached into their pockets and gave.”

Three girls made the trip to Wal-mart, where they filled carts with sweat suits of various colors and sizes, Sabri said. They also purchased all the blankets the store had.

“We basically bought out the whole store,” Sabri said.

These items and other supplies donated by McSA members filled 12 boxes, she said, but not all the boxes could fit on the planes to Pakistan. The ones that did fit were taken to an Islamic school in Elgin, Ill., and then transported to the airport, Sabri said.

McSA is raising money to ship the rest. For now, they are being stored in the Islamic Prayer Room in Parkes Hall.

Bilal said the group bought warm clothes because winters are harsh in the areas of northern Pakistan hit by the earthquake.

“It’s going to be brutal,” she said.

SESP senior Hiba Rahim, who has family in Pakistan, said McSA will continue to raise funds. Members will set up tables at Norris and The Rock to sell henna tattoos and snacks, she said.

The group recently elected philanthropy chairs who will make additional fundraising plans, Bilal said.

Weinberg junior Adnan Javed said he sympathized with Muslims in Pakistan who have to dig through rubble when their bodies are already weakened by Ramadan fasting. Having an earthquake this month is unsettling, he said.

“To have such tragedy, it really shakes up everything you conceptualize Ramadan to be,” he said.

Reach Lauren Pond at [email protected]