As with so many non-profit ventures, it all started when a few members of a community got together to help meet a need. At the beginning that need became obvious as low-income Muslim families struggled to gain access to healthy and halal food. So an uncle in the community opened up his basement and they began a food pantry and hampers to help people out. And of course, it grew from there. Starting in the early nineties in a basement, today they have three different facilities around Edmonton and 22 paid staff.
For the last several years, IFSSA has had three main areas of work.
- Meeting essential needs like food and clothing. Last year, the Muslim community through IFSSA assisted more than 7000 families and distributed more than 640,000 pounds of food.
- Emergency Rent help and financial counseling. Last year, IFSSA was able to provide more than $100,000 in emergency rent help to families in danger of losing their home. This assistance can prevent a family from experiencing a deeper crisis, and it provides the opportunity for IFSSA workers to help a family consider how they might improve their financial situation.
- Fostering Healthy Families. “The Fostering Healthy Families program provides direct support services to family members and individuals affected by family violence in the immigrant community. IFSSA is committed to helping keep families together and free from abuse. Also to guide those that have been affected by violence in the family to heal, regain control and to feel safe in having a place to come to for help. A Muslim female provisional psychologist provides counselling services in the areas of trauma, self-esteem, marital discord, family mediation, depression and healthy relationships. The services are offered in a sensitive and knowledgeable manner with an understanding of cultural and Islamic aspects.” (http://www.ifssa.ca/services)
In the last few years, IFSSA has also identified affordable housing for large families as an area of high need, and has begun a partnership with Right at Home Housing Society to help create homes for low-income families. They hope to see some new units built in the next few years.
What fuels the heart of a ministry like IFSSA?
The Islamic teaching of Zakat, one of the five pillars. It reminds all Muslims of their responsibility to care for their neighbours. Muslims from various communities see supporting the work of IFSSA as a way to obey this core teaching of their faith.
They are also fueled by a sense of identity grounded in the Quran. Omar Yaqub, chair of IFSSA’s board describes their brand identity as embodied by the phrase “Created to Serve.” He says, “It is a proper representation of our principles, a reminder of God’s verse within the Quran (3:110), “You are the best of the nations raised up for (the benefit of) men.” The phrase speaks to many dimensions. IFSSA is here to serve people both directly, and secondly, we as people, volunteers or staff with IFSSA were created with the purpose to serve others. Serving others is spoken of within the Quran as medicine, and it speaks to the need within; an inner void that is filled through helping others.”
To learn more about IFSSA, visit them on their website: www.ifssa.ca