After 13 years of serving and empowering the disadvantaged in Latin America and the Caribbean, the global charity Zakat Foundation of America announces the historic opening of an office based in Cordoba, Argentina, from which it will continue to build self-reliance and uplift the continent’s most vulnerable.
When countless nonprofits and other organizations are closing their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, Zakat Foundation of America is opening a permanent space because the humanitarian nonprofit is there to stay and grow. Despite not having a typical grand opening to be safe during a time of COVID-19 restrictions, Zakat Foundation of America is hosting one-on-one socially distanced meetings with area government and nonprofit leaders, media and journalists, volunteers and beneficiaries to introduce its first official office in Latin America, present its programs and services, and explore strategic collaborations.
Zakat Foundation of America’s work in Latin America began with a 2008 permaculture project in Brazil and included a quote on the wall from Janusz Korczak, a Polish educator, translated into Portuguese.
A criança já é uma pessoa, não apenas o adulto de amanhã, which in English comes to mean: “Children are not the people of tomorrow, but are people of today.”
Fitting, then, that Zakat Foundation of America started with a long-term, sustainable development program like permaculture, the fruits of which reach children generations to come. Zakat Foundation then continued providing different types of humanitarian aid in the region ever since, reaching and uplifting generations that grew up facing the destruction earthquakes and hurricanes have done to their countries. Facing food shortages and limited access to education.
Zakat Foundation of America’s Executive Director, Halil Demir, said Latin America is an important region with communities the organization intends to support through humanitarian aid. He likened Argentina, specifically, to the region’s heart.
“We hope the work we do through this office uplifts families and communities, and that we can go beyond and reach generations for years to come,” Demir said. “It’s a great place to open our office. We’re grateful for the Argentinian government for allowing us to open an office there that will be the hub of our regional programmatic work.”
The office will introduce Zakat Foundation to the ecosystem of Argentinian nonprofits and relevant authorities, and it will serve as a place for meetings that will focus on strengthening alliances with local organizations. This is ultimately meant to reintroduce Zakat Foundation and its projects around the world to a region it has helped for more than a decade, solidifying intentions to remain a strong humanitarian presence as regional accessibility increases.
“Zakat Foundation had already promoted some permaculture work in Brazil when I met Mr. Demir in 2010,” said Veronica De Pasquale, Zakat Foundation’s Latin America Programs Coordinator. “I came in touch with Zakat Foundation in early 2010, after the Haiti earthquake. I was working as a volunteer for a Catholic church in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The Haiti disaster was a big shock for me, and it was then when I decided I wanted to work in the nonprofit sector for life. It was a personal realization, at a very young age, that this world needs more charity work — more people on this job. It is not enough.”
More than 10 years later, De Pasquale is heading the office opening. She is lining up meetings with mayors, township representatives, nonprofit organizations and more now that Argentina’s January recess is complete. The amount of people in each meeting will be limited in accordance with COVID-19 public health and safety precautions.
In that time, Zakat Foundation of America has implemented and overseen programs in more than 10 Latin American countries, helping provide emergency language classes and other vocational trainings, food security programs that include Ramadan and Udhiyah (Qurbani) meals, emergency relief and more.
Zakat Foundation reached earthquake, flood hurricane survivors as well as those who have faced man-made disasters that include refugee crises and crippling poverty. In opening this office, the organization will be able to reach more disaster-stricken individuals, putting humanity first and above all else.
This office will help strengthen the organization’s impact working with partners in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama and in other countries, adding a deep, positive presence to the humanitarian sector in the region.