World Humanitarian Day, which takes place on 19th of August every year is a reminder for us to appreciate those who serve others, and to value the survival, well-being and dignity of people affected by crises. As a global Goodwill Ambassador for the Zahra Trust, a UK based charity (which enjoys a special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations), I am privileged to be able to work in support of the charity’s various humanitarian initiatives as I travel to deliver lectures around the world throughout the year.
In this capacity, I am often in the field, in direct contact with those most in need of our assistance. My experiences last Ramadan have so moved me, that I wanted to share three messages – reminders to us all if you will – to keep in mind this World Humanitarian Day.
This year, I decided to initiate a fundraising project with Zahra Trust to support orphans and families in need around the world particularly in Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, India, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Tanzania. We created a team page, where two volunteers based in Canada and the Philippines helped raise funds online, in addition to a large fundraising event held in Sydney with the dedicated Australian community. Our aim was to raise funds to provide struggling survivors with the best of meals during the holy month of Ramadan, and to bring smiles to their faces through fun activities. The Holy Quran reminds us to help the orphans and those in need, and to be kind to others regardless of their religious or ethnic associations. With this spirit in mind, the campaign focused on providing families with not just food aid but also giving them an opportunity to enjoy what many of us often take for granted – a quality meal in a nice restaurant.
We also arranged a football match for the children with matching kits of their favorite teams. Support from donors worldwide was spectacular. In addition to the meals and activities, the funds collected were also utilized towards the development of a village for orphans in Iraq with decent housing, a hospital and a school, among other facilities.
By using the JustGiving platform, we saw the power in people rallying behind a collective cause. We were able to raise almost $200k online and experienced first-hand how crowdfunding helps bring everyone together. With the power of technology, giving and receiving donations has never been so easy – and it really helped speed up the process. JustGiving has proved to be an amazing partner in this worthy cause. The idea of reaching out to potential donors to collect funds for a charitable cause is not new. What has changed is that online platforms are now harnessing the power of people across geographies. There is strength in numbers, and nothing demonstrates this better than a successful online fundraising campaign.
Social media served as an enabler to spread the message of our campaign, with online funds surging in sync with our Facebook Live sessions where people could call in to make pledges and have their questions answered. I always find it challenging in my lectures to adequately explain the gravity of the situation faced by those most in need around the world. Words are seldom adequate to communicate their plight to people who do not have first-hand experience with it. Visuals such as videos with testimonials from the field help, but social media platforms truly amplify the message. Potential donors must also trust the person raising the cause, and I am grateful and honored that our campaign has benefitted from both – online and offline. The response to our campaign continues to pour in to-date and is testimony to the power of the Internet.
The donations we have received have already made a difference in the lives of the beneficiaries as the Zahra Trust continues to deliver on its promise to help those suffering most, and to enable them to survive and be self-sufficient. With 96+ aid projects active around the world in key locations, more than 50,000 refugees have been assisted and more than 5000 registered orphans continue to receive support, with special attention paid to their dignity and treating them with respect. The work continues to grow, the global humanitarian landscape continues to evolve and there is always a need for more people to step up and join hands.
This World Humanitarian Day I urge the community to recognise that humanitarian crises affect children the most and leave them exposed and vulnerable. These children need our compassion and love, no matter where they are in the world. Your contribution to any charity of your choice, goes a long way and can build a secure life for a child. Keep doing all the good work that you do – because any support, no matter how small, adds up to helping humanity at large.