When Laila Muhammad goes to work at Zakat Foundation of America Community Center Chicago (ZFCCC) in the morning, she keeps in mind something she brought back from her pilgrimage.
“I’ve been learning over the years,” Ms. Muhammad said, “that to really make it in this world, you have to be in sync with the universe, with all of creation. Just like when you go on haj, and you go around the Kaaba: you have to move as one with everyone.”
A recent example came from her work with the recently-opened Zakat Foundation Mentoring House in the South Shore neighborhood. The house was donated and rehabbed, and now has its first residents.
One, Ms. James*, is a medical administrator who recently lost one of her two adult children following a long illness.
The other is Ms. Flores*, a young mother with a two-year-old son and a premature baby who was born three months early and is still in the hospital. As her baby struggled to survive, this young mother was living in a shelter.
ZFCCC had been helping Ms. Flores pay for her bed in the shelter, but when ZF Mentoring House opened, Ms. Muhammad knew it was time to give this family an opportunity at a better life.
“When I gave her a key and she signed her lease, I felt so blessed to be part of that,” Ms. Muhammad said. “That was high on the chart of feeling good.”
ZF Mentoring House will eventually house three women for six months at a time. While they stay there they are required to be in school, seek employment or set goals for advancement within their field, as well as volunteering at ZFCCC and other local non-profits, and tending the house’s garden. They will pay reduced rent and receive coaching and mentoring as they create a life plan that covers their mental, physical, financial and social lives. They will learn budgeting and will have the opportunity to network in fields they are interested in.
Ms. Flores is taking classes in medical administration.
“Ms. James was already paired up with a mentor who had lost her child,” Ms. Muhammad said, “But I’m looking at how God put these two roommates together. One has lost her son, the other has a fragile child. One is entering the field of medical administration, the other has a long history in it.”
“I think it will be a good healing for them both.”
Ms. Muhammad takes no credit for these small miracles. “When you get in sync with all of creation,” she said, “it just works. God makes this stuff work for you.”