COVID-19: Unifying Minnesota Muslims through Service Across Difference – Khidma Initiative

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Khidma Initiative members package and deliver food and hygiene supplies to various local masjids and Muslim organizations in the Twin Cities. Credit to Hannan Wazwaz.

By: L. Nur, Freelance Journalist

In early March, Hannan Wazwaz was already seeing the increased strain on local masjids to deliver basic supplies to Muslim families while maintaining physical distancing rules during COVID-19.

That’s why — with a group of 10 young Muslim professionals — she co-founded the Khidma Initiative, an emergency service project that partners with local masjids, organizations and restaurants to deliver non-perishable foods, hygiene kits, and fresh and hot halal meals. Khidma also provides groceries and errand-runs for elders and vulnerable families.

“Khidma” means “service” in Somali, Oromo, Arabic, Urdu and several other languages, thus serving as a unifying concept for the Muslim community “to be in the service of others, and to take action on one cause together,” Wazwaz said.

“We had an outpour of support from Muslim organizations and businesses. They gave a lot [of monetary support] to help us run this project,” she said. “We didn’t want to crowd-fund because asking people to donate would defeat the purpose.”

Wazwaz and the co-founders were aware of the resources various masjids already had, due to ongoing charity and fundraising throughout the year.

“They have the funding and we had the idea so [we thought] if you supply us with resources, or if you have hygiene kits already, we can go ahead and use our base of 100 volunteers and deliver them,” she said. “It works because they have the resources, and we have the [social distancing] process in place.”

A Rapid Success Story

Khidma has been a success in a matter of weeks. The informal group is not a registered nonprofit, and while a nascent initiative, it fills a gap by working across cultural, ethnic, racial and geographic barriers in the Twin Cities metro area. This makes Khidma a pandemic go-to for Muslim organizations and families across the cities, and across mosque affiliation.

Khidma Initiative members package and deliver food and hygiene supplies to various local masjids and Muslim organizations in the Twin Cities. Photo credit: Hannan Wazwaz

So far, Khidma has served more than 2,000 hot meals, 250 sanitation kits, and on average has delivered more than 5,000 food kits to families in need since mid-March, Wazwaz said.

Partner organizations include Afro Deli Restaurant, Masjid An-Nur’s Al-Maa’uun Project, Building Blocks, Muslim American Society of MN, NWICC Plymouth Islamic Community Center and Dar Al-Farooq Youth and Family Center.

Khidma’s newest project in partnership with U Adeeg (a similar local Muslim-led initiative recently launched in response to the pandemic) is to feed 1,000 Muslims a day for 30 days during Ramadan, a goal of 30,000 people fed over the next month, with food provided by Afro Deli.

The project highlights the needs of elders and youth, because “the Prophet Muhammed said, ‘Those who do not show mercy to our youth and don’t respect the right of the elders are not from us’,” Wazwaz explained. “So we believe the rights of the young and old are sacred and protected.”

Khidma Talk

So sacred, in fact, that the initiative launched “Khidma Talk,” an emotional support service. The website lists a hotline and email for vulnerable people to contact, and receive emotional support in a culturally sensitive way. 

“With COVID-19 we felt a lot of people were overwhelmed and feeling lonely, given that it’s hard to be in isolation. People are losing jobs, there’s anxieties and stressors,” she said. “So we felt it was important just to take care of people’s emotional frustrations and walk them through to ease their mind.” 

She said the project is expanding to Rochester and St. Cloud to serve Muslim communities there too.

“Islam and Muslims are at the forefront when anything happens to us in the community,” she said. “[What we do] is important to the wholeness of society.”

Working Together with Local Masjids and Nonprofits

Wazwaz said Khidma’s brand is respected by others masjids because of the initiative’s desire to be a unifier, and the aim to avoid being involved with any pre-existing tensions in the nonprofit community, either due to cultural or other differences. 

Khidma Initiative members package and deliver food and hygiene supplies to various local masjids and Muslim organizations in the Twin Cities. Photo credit: Hi Studios

“We really wanted to steer away from being ‘the next’ organization because we already have plenty of mosques doing these things,” she explained, referring to the many food shelves and fundraisers in the local masjid community that serve low-income Muslim families. 

She hopes the project will continue to expand as the need arises, but has no goals to declare it a nonprofit yet. 

“We don’t want to step on anybody’s toes, we just wanted to step in and fill a gap that was there [due to the] urgency of the time,” she continued, adding that Khidma’s vision was to work with any organization that wanted to help. 

“That was the idea of getting community partners involved,” she explained. “And that’s the barakah (blessing) because we’re still able to provide; there’s still a lot of resources.”

Connect with Khidma Initiative:

Request Services from Khidma

Sign up to VOLUNTEER with Khidma (Delivery & Assembly)

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