After 30 years of hard work in the trenches of Africa’s most impoverished communities, African Muslim Agency (AMA) indeed had much to celebrate on Saturday 14th October at a gala dinner held in Cape Town. With some of the country’s esteemed scholars, academics, businesspeople and community activists in attendance, AMA marked its 30th anniversary with theme ‘Laytul Hikmah’ by reflecting on its most successful projects and mapping its vision going forward.
Saturday evening’s event was a tribute to the late Mahomed Farid Choonara, the director of Africa Muslims Agency who was instrumental in the formation of the organisation in 1987, and who shaped the ideas and exemplary vision for an organisation which grew to become one of the largest and most respected NGO operating in Africa.
Key note speaker, the esteemed Mufti Ismail Menk, said he had “a soft spot” for the humanitarian agency and has been impressed by what’s been achieved.
“I have met Marhoom Mahomed Farid Choonara many times in my childhood. We used to go out to the rural areas and distribute much needed humanitarian aid,” he recalled.
He said the South Africa example shines across the globe.
“There’s a lot of good work happening at Africa Muslim Agency. If you can’t help, at least create awareness and tell others. If they donate, you get the full reward. Do and help, and don’t expect reward or thanks from anyone. Prepare for the everlasting aakhira by reaching out to others. Learn to give and give so much,” were his simple yet wise words.
Mufti Menk also placed special emphasis on the rights of orphans in our society. From the very beginning Islam, through the example of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) always enforced people to provide protection, care, love and respect to orphans. The organisation maintains and educates more than 65 000 orphans, who now work in different career fields.
“Allah has chosen the orphan child way above others. Allah says don’t rebuke or be harsh against the orphan,” Mufti Menk told the audience.
Hafez Imraan Choonara, the national Director of Africa Muslims Agency Direct Aid International and son of the late Mahomed Farid Choonara, said the event aimed to acknowledge the donors who have contributed selflessly over the years, and to pay tribute to the work achieved by the organisation.
“My late dad began the organisation when South Africa had different challenges and people weren’t aware of what other communities were going through. He was one of the first people to break down those barriers to go into these areas and further into Africa to spread the deen of Islam and assist people during their time of need.”
Extending its reach
From humble beginnings, AMA has expanded its work beyond the borders and through Directional International Aid has ventured into poverty stricken countries such Syria, Palestine and Burma.
One of its current projects is focused on the humanitarian crisis facing the Rohingya people who have fled their homes in Myanmar due to religious hate-fuelled violence by Buddhist groups and the Myanmar military. The UN says the Rohingya’s situation is the “world’s fastest growing refugee crisis before August, there were already around 307,500 Rohingya refugees living in camps, makeshift settlements and with host communities, according to the UNHCR. There are now 537,000 refugees who have arrived in Bangladesh since August, 58% are children, while 60% of the adults are women.
“Relief efforts for food and shelter are ongoing. But there is also the psychological trauma after many Rohingya people witnessed their families being killed. So it’s a continuous programme in which we can empower the Rohingya and send them back home to rebuild their lives. We hope to use tonight to raise funds for the people of Myanmar,” he said.
Education as the building blocks for humanity
A large focus of AMA’s work is on education in rural and poor communities. Education is the foundation of building societies but in many parts of Africa, this right is threatened through exclusion, segregation, corruption, weak education policies, and insufficient accountability of governments and education providers. AMA’s vision for its educational institutions is to lay the groundwork for the future direction of people’s lives and the societies they live in.
Since 1987, AMA has constructed and operated 840 educational facilities starting from kindergarten to the University level where more than half a million students have benefitted. AMA’s programme also pays the academic fees for more than 150 000 needy students, maintaining more than 3000 undergraduates. AMA has also provided more than 700 scholarships for post graduate studies. 110 social and educational centres including elementary, middle and high schools have been established over the three decades. Each centre has a mosque, clinic, training centre and homes for the staff and orphans.
Reviving Islamic learning
Integral to the humanitarian agency’s vision is the revival of Islamic social, moral and intellectual learning. Spanning the 30 years, AMA has constructed over 6000 Masajid across remote Africa and distributed 20 million copies of the Holy Qur’an in Arabic and different African languages. Over 750 courses for the instructors, imams of mosques and sheikhs of villages have been established. AMA has translated and printed 9 million books in 22 languages.
In terms of its social development and health care programmes in Africa, AMA has constructed four hospitals, built and operates 256 clinics, and launched the ground-breaking Gripp3d project in 2015, an initiative providing mechanical hand devices for children without limbs. The relief agency sends 500 000 tons of relief aid which includes, food, medicine and clothing to disaster stricken areas.
AMA is most renowned for its water well projects all over Africa for the last 30 years. In developing countries, the lack of access to safe drinking water often results in serious illnesses and death. With South Africa’s current drought, the agency has been consistent in providing water to the more needy communities.
The organisation has dug more than 20 000 water wells and boreholes throughout Africa, constructed more than three water dams in the drought stricken areas and built over 35 boreholes to access clean water in Kwa Zulu Natal, Gauteng, Free State and Western Cape.
To improve the agricultural sector and create self-sustainability, AMA has initiated new innovative sustainable programs, such as “Grain banks” which benefited thousands of poor farmers.
To donate to Africa Muslim Agency, contact the organisation on 083 251 9376 or visit their website on www.africamuslimsagency.co.za . VOC