Zaman Internation –A Mercy To Society
An interview with Najah Bazzy
By MARIA MAJEED
NAJAH BAZZY is the founder of Zaman International, a non-profit organization. She is a mother, a wife, a nurse by profession and an active social worker. Her strong devotion, commitment, hope and passion has led her to help the needy since the Bosnian crisis in the early 90s.
“I have always felt like you can do it all!” says Najjah.
In addition to this Najah was on the front page of New York Times, USA Today and Glamour Magazine three years ago, she has also contributed to the documentary made on Prophet Mohammad by Alexander Kronemer and Michael Wolfe. She is a very eloquent speaker, trans-cultural nurse, a local TV show host and co-founder of YMA in her local community.
Zaman International is a non-profit organization that was founded five years ago. Zaman’s efforts, energies and work are for those in need, regardless of any religion, color or creed. On May 14th 2010 the first office space was setup which was generously donated by a member from the community. The humanitarian work, however that Najah led did not start with Zaman. Najah’s efforts of social service started way back in the early 90s, when she ran a food and clothing drive for Muslims in Bosnia. In 1996 she founded Bait-al-Zahra, after finding many Iraqi refugees from the Gulf War in hospitals, sick and in need. Having an office space after years of inspiring work is a very nice change for Najah, “The office after 14 years is a huge step because we never had an office before. We worked out of our garages and basements!”
Zaman International currently has five active projects, their major one is BOOST which is a program for women that are widowed, divorced or abandoned, are the least educated and in need help to move their lives forward. A generous Muslim philanthropist gave them the amount of money to start the education training program for these women. BOOST is a sewing for literacy program which teaches these women to sew to eventually use these skills as an extra income source for their family. In addition to that they are also given ESL classes by a teacher from Henry Ford Community College who has volunteered to donate her time and expertise for these women. Gail (Najah’s secretary) explains, “These women are part of the 200 families that we take care of, so we know their personal story, we know their situation, they have been qualified, we know their history.” The ultimate goal of this program is to get these women placed in facilities that really could use their service or to make them independent. “But we have to start small right now. Set up the class, get a commitment from them, get them going, see if they can make this happen!”, says Gail. However sewing for literacy is not the only aspect of BOOST program, the main objective of which is to empower women through education, vocational training and financial assistance. Therefore there are plans to expand this program in order to assist women financially into different fields like medicine, pharmacy and other professions. BOOST will cater to two areas, vocational training – sewing for literacy program and advanced educational placement. The advanced educational placement area, due to limited funds is currently assisting one student graduate from a College of Dentistry.
The other significant program run by Zaman International is the Mobile Food Pantry, that have volunteers go every night pack food and deliver to families in need. This is not exclusively for Muslims, “And when we hear that someone has a food shortage we just drop everything and run to help”, explains Gail. Zaman has partnered for this project with some local businesses such as Yasmin Bakery and Super Greenland. They also prepare around 400 food baskets that are distributed twice to needy Muslim families, once right before the month of Ramadan and then one before Eid-ul-Adha. These baskets carry halal food as well. The food box drive has been going on for almost 12 years now, with the help of active volunteers from the community. The other programs that they have are as follows:
Bait-al-Zahra – a program under which food, clothing and other necessities are dispensed to families in need. This program is connected to the BOOST program because it includes the 200 families that have been qualified for assistance. For this program Zaman International has a clothing bin outside of their office where people can drop off clothes and shoes. Zaman also has a pickup service available for household items such as kitchen ware, appliances, furniture etc.
Plots for Tots -This is an infant burial program that provides financial assistance and other help needed by families who experience an infant death.
Youth Enrichment – is led by youth for the youth. It includes volunteers, college students and other people from the community who organize and lead different enrichment programs for the youth.
When asked about expanding, Gail mentioned that they are waiting for a warehouse which will be a huge step towards expanding their services. Zaman currently has 100 volunteers for their food pantry program and they would love to expand, if they could get more committed individuals from the community. The daily food delivery takes place from Yasmin bakery and takes about one and a half hour. Volunteers can sign up for as many days as they like per week and they are given details of where the food is kept and the list of addresses that they will be responsible to deliver to. Gail adds, “This spurs activism and compassion in people and there are so many students who do this right now. They are wonderful!”
Zaman has also contributed to many international projects over the years by partnering with other humanitarian aid organizations like Red Cross. A few of their endeavors include providing assistance for the food crisis in Haiti, shipping medical equipment to Jerusalem, rising up to Bosnian crisis, providing medical and other assistance to Iraqi refugees in Gulf War and the list goes on.
Najah believes in staying humble, which one can easily notice about her. When asked about where Najah would like to see Zaman in a decade, she answered, “The ultimate vision is that only God knows where Zaman will go. I have submitted, Zaman is not my project I am the servant and I had to teach myself how to submit to its personality, how to submit to its growth, how to submit to its own miracle that it is. Zaman I believe is in its developmental years, identifying its personality, and showing off its beauty. It’s able to define itself and its own place in the world and I remember doing that myself, trying to maintain Islam and my American identity and my Arab identity and who I am.” She realizes her role as a nurturing director, who would like to direct the activities of this newly founded nonprofit but does not believe in controlling it. Her ultimate vision is to institutionalize Zaman’s projects under one roof so that they can coexist in a campus like atmosphere that she calls “Medina Village”. In addition to housing all of Zaman’s current projects, this village will also have things that are needed in the local community such as a senior living center, rehab center, hospice and vocational training center.
About choosing the name Medina Village she elaborates about her idea behind it, “Because for me as a Muslim American I believe in my heart that Medina-when I am in Medina, I feel so secure and at peace. I feel that Medina is the role model in the world for pluralism, peace, prosperity, religious cohesiveness, path finding, sustainability, kindness, care giving, sharing, everything is in Medina and so that’s where I got the name. What Islam has to offer America in terms of a moral landscape, in terms of the values, in terms of equity, I just believe that we could play the model here.” And it seems like she is already on the go, after acquiring her first office months ago and looking for a warehouse Najah breaks this news about her meeting a few hours ago, , “So today we have approved half a million dollar project! I think that challenge is always there and Allah tests you at every point but after every challenge there is a gift at the end of the day!” Najah is inaugurating this plan during this Ramadan.
She believes that every one of us has a unique niche and that one first needs to realize that and then have faith. Her advice to people who identify with an unfulfilled need in the community and want to serve is to first pray, “By asking God to accept you to be His servant, the way He wants you to serve, not the way you think you should serve”, explains Najah. Secondly, she stresses on staying focused and optimistic. When faced by an obstacle or a challenge, it is important not to give up and not lose confidence, “You must have complete confidence in Allah without a shadow of a doubt because the shadow of doubt is Shaitan, who will knock you off of your focus.” She also thinks that humanitarian work can go hand in hand with any profession, if one has the desire and energy to commit to a cause.
Najah’s expresses her passion that keeps her going, “It shall not be the time that leaves an imprint on me but rather I shall leave an imprint on time!”