One year ago, the Rohingya Muslim community of Chicago achieved what is impossible to do in their native homeland: establishing a community center to preserve their distinct traditions, language, and faith. Now, they are making history with the development of the Rohingya Culture Center (RCC), the first Rohingya community center in the United States and a Zakat Foundation of America project.
On a bright Saturday in April, the RCC celebrated its one-year anniversary by organizing a large community gathering. The center, located in the Rogers Park neighborhood on the North Side of Chicago, was packed with families, local organizations, and media teams.
After brief speeches, awards were given to volunteers and staff who played an instrumental role at the RCC. Afterward, lunch was served as everyone enjoyed delicious authentic Rohingya dishes while meeting and conversing with new people.
“The center has grown so much,” says Bashirah, a Programs Coordinator at Zakat Foundation of America who’s been involved with RCC from the beginning. “It’s been an incredible journey just to be present and to work with them and to help them achieve their goals here. It’s been an honor working with this community.”
In addition to financial support of the RCC in Chicago, Zakat Foundation of America also supports Rohingya refugees overseas through a number of humanitarian programs including food aid, winter kits, and orphan sponsorship.
“We have to stand with those who are persecuted,” says Ifrah, a Ph.D student at the University of Chicago. “God hears the prayers of the oppressed.”
“This center is created due to the efforts of the Rohingya,” she added. “It’s because of the beautiful Rohingya leaders and the volunteers we have here, including the Rohingya youth who will be the future leaders of this center. They are the people who made this space happen.”