Muslim Social Services KW Celebrates Ten Years and We Thank You for Your Support
Dear MSS supporter,
Assalamalikum wa rahmatullah/ Peace and Blessings,
In January of 2017, MSS will celebrate its tenth anniversary. This has been a long and rewarding journey. We have come a long way from an informal group of volunteers to Waterloo Region’s first ever Muslim social service agency. We are now an Imagine Canada accredited charity, an honour that we are very proud of. Although very small, we continue to dream big. None of what we have achieved in this community, and beyond, would ever have been possible without your prayers, your support, and your donations to our various programs. With many volunteers dedicating their time to various community projects, MSS is constantly providing important services in our Region.
There is no one word to capture all our services as our work has extended to community outreach through our numerous educational training programs, food assistance programs, interfaith work, spiritual care for the sick and they dying, culturally and spiritually sensitive counselling services, safer families program for prevention of domestic violence, Welcome to Canada newcomer program for settlement of newcomers, programs for engaging youth and other programs for men, women and children. In areas where we do not provide direct service, we have supported many frontline service providers and agencies by being a bridge between the clients and the respective agency.
It is hard to imagine that we have been able to so much without acknowledging the support we have received from so many community members and partner organizations. We thank you all for believing in us.
Above all, the backbone of MSS is its volunteers. There are too many to name here who have dedicated hundreds, and in some cases thousands of hours of their time. My deepest gratitude is for these unsung heroes of MSS, our many volunteers who get involved in programming, our remarkable Board members, past and present, all the service learning and practicum students, and many others. You have given so much of yourselves selflessly, and I thank you all.
Thanks to all of you for walking alongside us on our road to be your agency in this Region and to help us serve those in need.
Below you will get to read what has been going on and how MSS continues to make a positive impact in the lives of many in our community. As the demands on our work grow, we look forward to your continued support.
Idrisa Pandit, Founding Director, MSS
What has been happening at MSS?
This summer and Fall was certainly an exciting one for Muslim Social Services! From a variety of great programs for both youth and adults, to providing much needed assistance in the community, MSS continues to be an invaluable resource for families in Kitchener-Waterloo. We have been especially busy with supporting our newcomer Syrian Canadians in their settlement journey through our sponsorships, our varied services, our language and culture training programs supporting various sponsors, children’s entertainment and celebration for Eid, food support for newcomers, conversations circles for men, healing through arts program, Arabic language crash courses for sponsors, and the safer families discussion groups. Many more programs are coming up for all sectors of our population, so stay tuned. For current and upcoming programs, please check our website.
MSS office has relocated within the Family centre building. We are now on the first floor of the Family Centre. I welcome your support for the organization. Do consider volunteering with MSS and serving our community. If you have any questions, suggestions, or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me.
We are thrilled to announce that MSS has recently received prestigious Imagine Canada standards accreditation. In the words of Cathy Brothers, CEO of Capacity Canada, and a long-time friend and mentor of our organization, MSS has now "joined an elite group of well-run organizations in Canada." For a very small organization like ours, it is an achievement we are very proud of. We thank our volunteers, our current and former Board members, current and former staff, for all their efforts in making this project a success. Special thanks are due to Darlene Stegner and Zainab Ramahi, for spearheading this effort. Our clients, supporters, donors, and funders, can now feel confident that they are dealing with an institution with sound practices of governance, financial transparency and accountability.
We’ve had immense success with our youth programs offered this summer, particularly those aimed at helping young newcomers build the skills and confidence to help them achieve goals and advance towards bright futures. Healing Through Arts was one of those programs, an eight-week program for newcomer children that encouraged creative expression through a variety of fun art projects and crafts. The program was administered in both Arabic and English, cultivating a safe space where participants could communicate openly. Similarly, the Music Therapy Project for special needs children ages 6-12 provided children with a helpful creative outlet and chance to express themselves musically in an environment that encouraged socialization, improving communication skills and fostering a great sense of community. The project helped reduce feelings of isolation and stigmatization for these children by promoting and maintaining physical, emotional, and spiritual healing.
Additionally, the Studio Impact Workshops that ran throughout the summer provided those involved with a safe space to freely voice thoughts and develop passions. Through dynamic discussions and participatory learning, the program explored what it means to be a leader in the community, and taught youth strategies for translating passion into action. The Welcome to Canada Program, a four-week-long camp for newcomers, was also an exceptional part of the summer. The camp helped youth explore issues of identity and home, and even provided them with the opportunity to learn about photography. The children had their work showcased in an exhibition at the end of the program. Our thanks are due to all the program organizers.
Rohingya Youth Voices
The Rohingya Youth Voices initiative deserves a special mention. In June the group was recognized for the phenomenal success they had with their play “I Am Rohingya,” directed by Yusuf Zine. They performed the play once again on June 26th to celebrate World Refugee Day, and were presented with the Youth Division’s World Refugee Day Award of Distinction. A lot of hard work went into making the play as successful as it was, and the award was certainly well deserved! The group also performed the play at the 2016 Islamic Relief fundraising event, raising over three hundred thousand dollars for Islamic Relief to help them establish a health clinic for Rohingya refugees in Myanmar. An emotive representation of the struggles Rohingya refugees face, the play sends a powerful message to Rohingyans in both Canada and Burma, and evidentially continues to have a significant impact on audiences around the world. The actors and Director of the play also had audience with the Prime Minsiter. Rohingya Youth Voices cast was also honoured to recently have a live read at the Toronto Public Library. Another honour that one of the actors, Ruma, has received the National Artivism Fresh Voices Award.
You can read about the transformative journey of the Rohingya youth here.
Here is how Ahmedullah, one of the lead actors in the play captures his experience with MSS:
I would like to thank Muslim Social Services (MSS) for giving the Rohingya youth community an opportunity to be part of the organization. Establishing an identity for our own and promoting the existence of the Rohingya people is crucial to building awareness around the world..As a Rohingya youth, I would consider myself grateful for being part of the movement, creating awareness for the genocide in Burma. Being able to help my people while pursuing my dreams to become an actor has enabled me to practice in my field and come closer to my friends and community even more. As a survivor, I would like to use my strengths and weaknesses to overcome this struggle from hidden identity and promoting our race. I would like to proudly say that I am no longer afraid to be who I am and where I come from. Thank you to all who have supported not just me, but the whole Rohingya community, who is thankful and appreciative for all that is happening. Finally, for giving us the chance to share our side of the story, for the most persecuted people on earth, “I Am Rohingya.”
And, Sydney Marshall, a WLU graduate sums her experience working on the Rohingya Youth Voices project as such:
“I began volunteering with the Rohingya Youth Voices in September, 2015 as part of a course requirement. Over the past year, I have continually been amazed with the development of the theater production and with each individual. I could not have imagined the impact that the group would have on me or how well known this production would become. I have learnt so much from the group and I feel honoured to have been able to be part of this process and to hear their stories. I am so proud of all that they have accomplished and am excited to see what is to come.”
In addition to the many youth programs and opportunities MSS offered over the summer, we’ve also continued to lend many helping hands to community members in need. Most notably, besides the 130 families who received Ramadan support, MSS made sure that a total of 60 families in the region received gift cards so that they could purchase groceries for Eid Al Adha celebrations. MSS was also the proud sponsor of Kids’ Fun Day at SkyZone, providing Syrian refugee kids with this great opportunity they might otherwise not have had. As always, MSS strives to make Kitchener-Waterloo a welcoming environment where everyone can feel that they belong.
Canada Summer Jobs Students
MSS would like to thank the two students who held positions with us over the summer: Rass Siddiqui, who worked as a Research Assistant and Youth Programs Facilitator, and whose work involved evaluating programs such as Welcome to Canada the Rohingya Youth projects, and Sulika Mazhar, who was the Communications Assistant and in-charge of updating the MSS website. It was great to have them on-board this past summer!
We look forward to welcoming other students in the Spring.