NYers Of The Week: Muslim-American Group Helps Sandy Victims, Spreads Understanding
If there is a silver lining in the dark cloud that was Hurricane Sandy, it is that New Yorkers came together. This week, NY1 honors a group of volunteers who proved that regardless of race, religion or ethnicity, everyone can help. NY1's John Schiumo filed the following report.
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Days after Hurricane Sandy struck, volunteers from the Islamic Circle of North America relief team were distributing food and blankets to hard-hit communities and helping gut houses that were damaged.
"With our crew of volunteers, we visited these areas. We went door to door, home to home, knocking on people's [doors], 'What is your situation, how can we help,'" said Ishaq Alpar, a volunteer with the relief team.
The volunteers, some 450 of them, are not just rebuilding homes. They are also building understanding of what it means to be Muslim-American.
"It is something in the mind, from back somewhere in the European history, that the people still think that the religious people, they cannot come together, but it is not true," said Mohammad Arif, assistant executive director of ICNA Relief. "Religious people can come together. They can work together and they are proving [this] when they are working in the field.
ICNA Relief bills itself as the only Islamic organization in the country that helps nationally with disasters. Today, they are still helping storm victims tackle the biggest challenge: rebuilding their homes.
"They were the first people to show up on the scene in this neighborhood and give everybody help. They came, they gutted out the house as quickly as possible," said Nicole Pogan, a homeowner in Brighton Beach. "It was very emotional for me to go through what I went through, just like every other New Yorker that was hit by Sandy. And when the ICNA relief showed up, I was just so happy. They really helped me out a great deal."
Once all the walls are patched and the electricity is rewired, the team hopes their help will have a lasting impression.
"If we keep on working like this, definitely, we can change everybody's mind. Good work you cant hide," Alpar said. "There are different kinds of people in every ethnic and religion. There are some good, there are some bad. And we are the good people."
So, for rebuilding homes and lives with their work and positivity, the members of the ICNA disaster relief team are our New Yorkers of the Week.