Zakat Foundation of America hosted U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois Saturday at the Chicago Rohingya Culture Center (RCC), and the meeting must have jolted his heart.
“Visited @Rohingyachicago to see some of the important work they are doing to help the community in Chicago and address the crisis in Burma,” Durbin tweeted about the Zakat Foundation of America project and its response to the Rohingya crisis.
Yesterday, the leading legislator not only advocated in person for increased relief to Rohingya refugees “fleeing war & terror” from Myanmar. While calling for a stronger U.S. response, he also joined a bipartisan Senate group in a letter extolling Bangladesh for keeping its borders open and “supporting fleeing civilians in desperate need of aid.”
Zakat Foundation of America helped found the RCC in West Rodgers Park in April 2016 and has funded the resettling of some 1,500 refugees from Myanmar in the area, one of the 10 largest concentrations of Rohingya in America, according to Pew Research.
Executive Director Khalil Demir introduced Durbin to the Zakat Foundation of America’s two-pronged program for Rohingya refugees: One helps make the United States home for their mostly young families, through grants for housing, education, food and clothing. The other delivers emergency food, shelter, water, and medicine to the starving and destitute flooding Bangladesh by the thousands everyday.
“This is a time of unprecedented tragedy for human beings across the world, but the Rohingya endure suffering and hardship beyond human comprehension,” says Demir. “Their needs are massive, their condition dire on the verge of death. We must respond.”
Zakat Foundation of America workers serving the Rohingya in Bangladesh report starvation, dehydration, disease, and exposure on an unimaginable scale. More than 520,000 Rohingya refugees have crossed into Bangladesh since August 25, according to the UNHCR, with that figure projected to rise to a million by year’s end. This number includes 600,000 children, many orphaned or unattended and exposed to exploitation and human trafficking, according to Save the Children. Another 200,000 internally displaced hide in the Myanmar jungles.
Demir also informed Durbin about Zakat Foundation of America’s comprehensive refugee services and education for more than 200 Syrians in the Muhammad Ali SafeHouse, a 44-room complex in Gaziantep, Turkey, as well as protective housing built for unaccompanied minors and separated children in East Africa, mostly exploited girls and young women, through Zakat Foundation’s partner Heshima Kenya.
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