USF students pledge to help the needy in Tampa Bay and beyond listen09/08/11 Andrea Lypka
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At USF on Tuesday, Muslim and non-Muslim students pledged to continue to help the needy and promote religious tolerance in Tampa Bay and beyond. Organizers say they also hope to break the misconceptions about Islam and Muslims.
Safia Khawaja is president of the Muslim Students’ Association at USF. They organized what they call a Fast-A-Thon, an event for those who pledge to go without food for an entire day. The biomedical sciences major says that homelessness is a global epidemic.
“Muslims during the month of Ramadan, we actually fast from dawn to dusk as well, and it allows us to feel what the poor and hungry, who don’t have food, how they feel like. Along with getting students see how it feels like, we also want to raise awareness about different causes. We also use this as a fundraiser," Khawaja said.
Nadir Bakali is the President of Project Downtown, USF’s homeless advocate organization that feeds the destitute every Friday. He says he wants to raise awareness to different causes within the community and abroad.
“With all the conflict that has been going on in Somalia these days and within the local community in Hillsborough County’s homeless population. There are people who can’t get the healthcare and stuff like that,” he said.
Bakali is a finance major with a minor in economics. After he attended last year’s one-day long Fast-A-Thon, he took every opportunity to volunteer.
“A lot of people at the university pulled a lot of strings for me to be here, whether scholarships and grants. I want to know that I can give back to the community in a different ways, not just with an education and getting a job. I feel that being in a college and help others is another way to learn a new experience,” he said.
Like Bakali, student Summer Adhal is also fasting for a cause.
“I feel lucky to be able to do this in the first place. If I hadn’t been introduced to organizations like MSA or Project Downtown, I might have never gotten the opportunity. I do this because I can have dinner every night and I can get a drink of water in a minute and other people in the world can’t do that. I feel it is our obligation as people and especially as a Muslim to go out and help people,” she said.
It is the first time for Jaclyn Calloway to attend Fast-A-Thon. She is a student in the Global Citizenship program and anthropology major at USF.
“I think that if I live comfortably enough here and get by can do a few hours a week to help someone else to maintain a level of conform-ability, normalcy and a full stomach. I fasted today and I fasted before for other causes and I know that even a couple of days at a time I go crazy being hungry. People don’t have a choice sometimes and I feel I can help with that,” she said.
After fasting for 30 days during Ramadan, Bakali is going without food during Fast-A-Thon. He says that he wants to raise awareness by doing something different.
“We want to basically raise awareness for two types of causes. One is about how Muslims are portrayed in the United States. We want to break the misconception of negative connotations that Muslims get. We want to show our way of life. We want to show that fasting is a common trend in most religions as well. And at the same time the causes we are trying to donate for… to show that everything is connected into one,” he said.
This year, half of the donations go to Muslims Without Borders, a student-based volunteer organization. It is currently working on projects such as the restoration of Haiti and building wells in countries around the world that need clean water. The rest will be donated to local charities, Project Downtown and Red Crescent Clinic, which provides free healthcare to the under-served in the Tampa Bay area.