Sunday, November 18, 2007

Little Rock, Big Impact

Less than 24 hours ago I hugged Zainab goodbye as I prepared to leave Little Rock, Arkansas.

In the less than 11 hours that I had known Zainab, we had bonded. She told me about how her brothers, lacking an MSA, had found a comfortable home at a Fraternity that respected their religion. We discussed everything from Muslim Country singer Kareem Salama to MSA and youth group. But for me the most amazing thing about our discussions was that Zainab was 11 years old. Despite the fact that she was half my age, as two American-born Muslim sisters we found a lot to talk about.

My time in Little Rock was a brief retreat from classes and e-mails. I had been invited by ISNA in my capacity as an advisor to MYNA and my role with MSA National to speak about Youth Development. The enthusiasm and excitement of these youth, parents and MSAers was contagious and yet eye opening. The presentations, practical advice, and resources were welcomed with hungry eyes by the community members so eager to take their organizations to the next level.

While I remain obsessed with organizational management, my e-mail, and have a cell phone practically sewed into my hijab, physically seeing the needs of our diverse, dispersed community and working directly with students will always be my passion. This is the stuff that drives activists: making a positive difference in the lives of others all in the service of God.

When I first got involved with MSA National as a zonal rep, my activism completely changed. From serving 20+ Muslim students on campus, I was now connected to hundreds. Starting an MSA in Maryland, holding a workshop in New Jersey, meeting with a council chair in DC to discuss how to address issues; this is the life of a zonal rep. And it is by far the biggest joy and Amana, trust, at the same time.

The goal of any institution, for or non-profit, is take what one person can do to the next level; to serve its users better on a larger scale. I have never believed more in the need for strong organizations that serve our community. Like Zainab said, we need people to do more.

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