11/08/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Holiday Season is Here!


"Ramadan is the Muslim holy month where acts of worship and charity are especially recommended for Muslims. It is especially significant at this time, when Muslims abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset, to remember Prophet Mohammed's saying that,     'Whoever goes to bed while his neighbor is hungry is not a true believer,'” says Amina Tahera, a Refugee Assistance Program lead volunteer. 

It's no surprise then that there are a plethora of initiatives by Chicago-area Muslims aimed at leaving the world and our communities a better place, and more so in Ramadan. Many of these initiatives are being recorded on President Obama's web site United We Serve  and ICNA Helping Hands and Refugee Assistance Programs,  are organizations with their combined service project 'Eid is for Everyone' running full-throttle. UMMA, besides its many programs, has 'Adopt a Refugee', while Muslim Women's Alliance has 'Rush For Rewards,' which includes stocking a food pantry, making breakfast for the homeless at at Our Lady of Sorrows Bascilla, visiting sick children at a nursing home and other events. The most famous of all Muslim social-service organizations is IMAN, on Chicago's South Side.

RAP focuses on helping refugees of all faiths, who've escaped war and victimization in Iraq, Burma and Africa.  We also work in collaboration wtih resettlement agencies, state organizations and NGO's.

As the founder of this grassroots initiative, I hope for self-reliance amongst refugees. How we do it sets RAP apart from many organizations -- we coordinate with refugee leaders to inform us of their community's needs. Our responses have included providing these families -- most living far below the poverty line --  with groceries, personal care products, and gifts for children.

Working with refugee leaders who have lived the experience, we get their expert input as we provide services that include sponsorship of driving lessons, assistance with rent and college fees, and mentorship. Several heart-wrenching refugees stories can be found on our web site.

What I invariably come away with is a feeling of just how vulnerable we are as people. It's just a roll of a dice -- life can be all roses ( or carnations, at least) one moment and the very opposite, soon after.