In Conversation With . . . Resala

Smiling Into A Broken World

“Give charity without delay, for it stands in the way of calamity.”
– the Prophet Mohamed, quoted by Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 589

The Resala Charity Organization is an Egyptian charity that recruits volunteers to serve the needy. Some of its actions include caring for the elderly, orphans, the blind, the deaf, financially strapped families, and children with special needs, as well as conducting blood drives and secondhand clothing drives, recycling, medical care, tutoring, and literacy training. Recently Abdulazeez Al-saeed, the manager of the Tanta branch of Resala, took the time to answer some of Wanda Waterman’s questions about the organisation’s mission and motivation.

A Popular Misconception
So often in the West you hear people say things like “Why aren’t the Muslims doing anything about this?” or “Why are all the charity organisations from the West?” But it doesn’t take a long immersion in the cultures of the Middle East to see how utterly misinformed this notion really is.

People here give readily, generously, and often, despite the propaganda. Why aren’t we made aware of this? The biggest finger needs to be pointed at Western big media for creating a false picture that (surprise, surprise) leaves the USA smelling like a rose.

In Egypt, several changes in government since the beginning of the Arab Spring there have failed to bring any kind of meaningful response to the needs of underprivileged Egyptian citizens. Into this steps the Resala Charity Organization (“Resala” means “message” in Arabic), an idea that first sprouted in the mind of Dr. Sharif Abdel Azim while he was in Canada.

The Canadian Connection
While in Canada, Dr. Sharif had learned of a lady there whodunnits’d adopted a group of children, one of them Egyptian. He was so inspired by her kindness that, by the time he returned to Cairo University, where he taught, he had a program of action to present to his students. His students, who, as Muslims, had a strong interest in developing their university as well as their society, took Dr. Sharif’s idea and ran with it.

The student volunteers hit the ground running, launching a host of services in the name of following the Islamic directive to care for the needy. The early services were offered from within the university itself, but in the year 2000 someone gave the organisation a plot of land in the Faisal area.

“The first branch of Resala,” reports Al-saeed, “was built on this land, after which 69 more branches were eventually established in other parts of the country.”

Le Raison d?ĂȘtre
What’s the purpose of Resala? Yes, performing charitable acts but also promoting the idea that volunteering doesn’t just improve a country’s social conditions?It’s also good for the soul and provides young people with a marvelous opportunity to connect with each other and show obedience to their creator.

As Al-saeed says, “The charity aims to publish this idea of the value of volunteer work. It also works toward the long-term goal of helping all the needy, anywhere, and at any time.”

But has it worked?

“According to the last statistics in 2012,” Al-Saeed reports, “our number of volunteers reached 2.5 million and we’ve helped more than three million needy families.”

Resala and the Islamic Directive
A fact which many in the west are in the dark about is how charitable acts form part of the essential core of Islamic life, and that charity is in fact one of the five pillars of Islam.

“Islam motivated people to do well,” says Al-saeed, “to help others, to give, to volunteer. So Resala adopted this idea, started to research peoples? needs, and tries to meet them. So Resala is a kind of microcosm of Islam.

“Our volunteers feel happy when they see the results of their actions and the smiles on the faces of the people they’re helping. they’re so happy to help others achieve their hopes with simple acts.

“they’re also motivated by Islamic teachings, by renewing their own intentions to do good, and by the promotions we create. And finally they’re motivated by the reward of Allah in this life and in the hereafter.”

On the Horizon
Thinking well in advance, Resala is now working on a number of small projects in the Gharbia Governorate, with the commendable goal of helping the region achieve self-sufficiency by 2020. As if that weren’t enough, the Cairo branch is now preparing to establish a new hospital for the treatment tumors.

The Qualities of a Resala Volunteer
There are no age limits on who can volunteer for Resala.

“You may find a volunteer still in primary school,” says Al-Saeed, “and you may also find volunteers over 60. Resala is open to anyone able to work and bear the responsibility of providing good services.

There’s something especially touching about Resala volunteers?they just can’t seem to stop doing good, and so they’re becoming a force to be reckoned with in Egypt today, branching out to carry out acts of service in other Egyptian charitable organisations. A case in point:

“One of the institutions that belongs to the blood bank,” says Al-saeed, “decided to honor the best charity organizations in the country, and Resala was the one of them. They soon discovered that Resala volunteers were also active in the other charitable organisations!”

Wanda also penned the poems for the artist book They Tell My Tale to Children Now to Help Them to be Good, a collection of meditations on fairy tales, illustrated by artist Susan Malmstrom.