By Allie Bice –
A national volunteer organization dedicated to helping the less fortunate in the Middle East while channeling values of the Muslim faith opened a branch in Chandler on Jan. 30.
The Arizona branch of Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD) is dedicated to “empowering lives, creating opportunities and strengthening the bond of humanity,” according to its website.
Gul Siddiqi, HHRD’s Arizona area manager, said the non-profit organization helps countries and people in two aspects: relief and development.
“Under the scope of relief, we help and send out teams to countries in emergency crises, whether there’s a drought or an earthquake,” Siddiqi said.
As for the development component, she said, the organization spends time building up communities in need, noting as an example, “some teams empower women and give them six months of skills training.”
Siddiqi said the HHRD volunteer teams are typically sent to countries outside of the United States. She added that teams aren’t limited to helping people of the Muslim faith, stating, “It’s not specifically religion based.”
She added that the humanitarian organization “does a lot of it under the guidelines of the Muslim religion, but the person receiving it can be of all faiths.”
After two years of working with the organization and doing community outreach, she was asked to open a warehouse in Arizona.
“My role was mainly to raise awareness in Arizona,” Siddiqi said. “Obviously the national organization chose someone in Arizona to start this.”
Siddiqi said she picked Chandler to station the organization’s warehouse because of the large Muslim population, noting, “I did research a lot of the Phoenix areas, and because of that, I preferred Chandler.”
The newly opened Chandler HHRD is hosting a clothing drive for the less fortunate in Lebanon, and has packed 20 boxes of clothes within a few weeks of opening.
Siddiqi said they hope to pack and sort 300 boxes of clothes before April, “with the amount of clothing we are receiving on a daily basis, I feel that we can accomplish that goal.”
A regular volunteer for HHRD and an ASU sustainability junior, Anisa Abdul Quadir, said the organization has enriched her life.
“Working with Helping Hand gives me the opportunity to do good amidst my everyday schoolwork and life,” Quadirs said. ‘With all of the calamities that befall the people of the world on a daily basis, I am blessed to have the ability to give a helping hand.”
She said she got involved in HHRD in 2013 and fell in love with its mission for development, noting, “It is obviously crucial to respond to emergencies with aid, and HHRD does extensive relief work. However, my passion and focus is development.”
Chandler Councilman Rene Lopez attended the opening, and said he believed the branch of HHRD would benefit the community.
“From what I saw, they seem very positive,” Lopez said. “The purpose of the organization is to gather clothes and food and other resources in order to promote relief among foreign refugees, and not just refugees but locally.”
Lopez said the organization would allow the Chandler and Phoenix communities to come together through volunteer work and public service.
“Anybody and any group can help,” Lopez said. “No matter what religion, belief, or sect you are – as long as you’re out there to help the community and other people – that’s a great thing.”