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Grenfell Together

Staff and volunteers of the Grenfell Muslim Response Unit (GMRU), and other faith and secular organisations that collaborated with GMRU, were honoured at a gathering last week.

Survivors, bereaved families and friends, and the wider Grenfell community affected by the Grenfell Tower fire of 14 June 2017 spoke with deep gratitude of the support they received from the coalition of Muslim charities, including Muslim Aid, set up in the wake of the disaster which claimed 72 lives.

Mariko Toyoshima-Lewis, a young disabled mother who lived at No 9 Grenfell Tower with her three small children, spoke movingly of how the GMRU family representative Donna Karimah Stacey turned her desperate situation around: “When I met Donna, I had really bad health, I think mentally I was starting to feel ill. No one was listening to me. I am a wheel-chair user and, although I was in a nice hotel, there were no facilities and my wheelchair wasn’t adapted for me to move around or leave the room so I couldn’t even get to the bathroom. I was stuck and felt helpless”, Mariko said.

“But Donna was willing to listen and to start helping me and looking for solutions for me”, she continued. “She came to see me regularly and, if she couldn’t come because of looking after her own family, she phoned me to check up on me and my little ones.”

The event entitled Grenfell Together and sponsored by the National Zakat Foundation, Muslim Aid, Human Relief Foundation and Maria London, was held at Porchester Hall in Bayswater, London, to mark the closure of the GRMU.

Hanan, another survivor of the fire, said: “They’ve always been there. Called to see how we are and supported us with funeral arrangements. We’d lost everything and we didn’t know what to do, so I can’t thank GMRU enough.”

As well as survivors, panel sessions featured, campaigners, individual social media advocates and charity workers discussing the events and lessons learned of the past 19 months. Mayor Sadiq Khan handed out awards.

Those commended with awards included Mohamed Omer from the Gardens of Peace cemetery, Grenfell lead coroner Fiona Wilcox, and Shahin Sadafi, former chairman of Grenfell United.

Mr. Khan praised those who received awards and spoke of the “kindness and compassion” of GMRU’s work.

“There is no doubt that your selfless actions have been instrumental in helping people to piece their lives back together. You have also demonstrated the true ethos and values of the faith of Islam. At a time when many non-Muslims may have a negative view of what it means to be a Muslim, you exemplified what it really means”, he said.

“So as Mayor of London, as a Muslim and as a fellow Londoner, I would thank you on behalf of our city for your amazing efforts and for making such an immense difference, not only to the lives of your neighbours but to complete strangers”.

In concluding his speech, the Mayor said, “too many questions remain unanswered.” He pledged that as long as he is Mayor, City Hall would support the Grenfell community to discover the truth and attain justice. “The only way to truly honour those who died is to find out exactly how this tragedy occurred so that we can avoid it ever happening again.”

The GMRU, which stepped in when the disaster struck, played a key role in co-ordinating food distribution, money, counselling, and even helped to arrange funerals for Muslim victims. It was all done in culturally sensitive ways. In all it helped 539 unique individuals, delivered 3,000 meals, engaged with 62 organisations and used the skills of 250 volunteers.

A full report on the work of the GMRU is to be published in the Spring.

  • 19 Oct 2018 update Muslim Aid renews its safeguarding commitments

    18 October 2018 

    Muslim Aid pledges to safeguarding commitments at DFID hosted international summit to tackle sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment in the aid sector   

    Muslim Aid today renewed its pledge to protect the vulnerable people it supports, their wider communities and any vulnerable staff members. 

    The Department of International Development’s safeguarding summit today was an opportunity for Muslim Aid to focus on its commitment to safeguarding and determination to fight abuse and exploitation in the international aid sector.  

    In the wake of the international charity safeguarding crisis which blew up in February 2018, the Charity Commission and safeguarding experts pledged to improve safeguarding standards across the sector.  

    DFID reached out to Muslim Aid as part of a sector wide process to provide information on a number of safeguarding issues it had dealt with over the years. Chief Executive Officer Jehangir Malik OBE attended a previous safeguarding summit on 5 March 2018, which led to today’s official commitments.  

    Muslim Aid is one of the 400 members of Bond, the UK membership body for non-governmental organisations working in international development. Since the Oxfam aid scandal, Bond’s members have worked to improve their safeguarding policies and practices, modelled on the best examples from the aid and the UK domestic sector.

    Along with fellow Bond members, Muslim Aid is focusing on the safety and wellbeing of children and adults, especially in vulnerable situations. Muslim Aid will not tolerate sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment and will put the voices, rights and safety of whistle-blowers, victims and survivors first.  

    Muslim Aid is engaged and committed to safeguarding the vulnerable. We have: 

    • Joined with 31 other organisations to sign a joint letter of commitment to improve safeguarding. 
    • Using our existing systems and procedures for safeguarding, we compiled details of all cases which had been reported to Muslim Aid since 2010. Details of 122 cases were sent to DFID, of which two came under the sexual exploitation and abuse category.   
    • Imtiaz Mohammed, Muslim Aid’s Director of International Programmes, has engaged in the working groups around these commitments, organised by BOND.  
    • Muslim Aid is now in the process of hiring a Safeguarding Advisor and Safeguarding Officer.  

    The details announced today is the result of this work, which demonstrates how the NGO sector will drive forwards consistency and leadership on safeguarding. 

    The 12 commitments demonstrate that the sector is serious about improving the quality and consistency of its safeguarding practice.

    The details of the 12 commitments can be found here

  • 15 Oct 2018 update Indonesia: Eye Witness Account

    ‘They gathered together, praying for those who’d just been pulled from the rubble.’

    Muslim Aid’s Madiha Raza has just returned from the Palu city on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, epicentre of the recent tsunami, where she spent time with local people and saw how their faith inspires their resilience. 

    ‘I was on an aid mission in Syria on September 28th when the 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck the island of Sulawesi. Reports of entire villages being flattened, followed by the terrifying 18 foot high waves flooded in. I knew I had to get there and see how we could assist. I’ve worked in a number of disaster zones, including Iraq, but was nervous about what I was going to witness.

    “Just a few days later I got off the plane in Palu, one of the epicentres of the quake. As we drove through the city, the scenes were devastating. Entire sections of the city had been flattened, like a steam roller had run right over them. We stopped next to what looked like a huge rubbish tip with mounds of crushed houses. I walked through broken streets, wondering what people had been doing in their homes when the earthquake struck, and they had to run with their children for their lives.  All around me I saw shreds of ordinary family life…… torn school books, broken cooking utensils, toys, and rags of clothes. I wondered what became of these people.

    “I looked up and saw some military men carrying a body bag past me, the smell was unbearable and the reality that hundreds of people must be trapped under the mud and rubble still was all too real. 

    “Our team drove to the village of Balaroa, which had been destroyed by the tsunami. When we arrived, it was like an apocalypse: entire houses had been swallowed up by the ground, there was masses of debris everywhere.  Locals gathered together, praying for those who’d just been pulled from the rubble. Further on, I saw people searching through rubble where their homes had stood, trying to recover anything that left. A young couple, 29 year old Hilda and Rahim, 30, told me ‘We were terrified when the earthquake struck and fled from our house. We have lost our parents and a sister, and now we’re looking for anything we can salvage [from the rubble].’ 

    “That night, we camped next to the house of a local family, who said they were too scared to sleep inside their home, and shared their yard with us. It was a difficult night, and a reminder that all those we were serving would be living in these conditions for months to come, without proper shelter, sanitation facilities or food.

    “The next day we headed to our food distribution in a displaced peoples’ camp in Donggala district. Muslim Aid distributed food packs of rice, oil, chickpeas and sardines as well as cartons of long life milk.  Muslim Aid is also distributing clean drinking water, temporary shelters, hygiene kits, and installing latrines. We had an opportunity to play with the children in the camp who seemed happy to be distracted from the difficulties they’d been through. Their endearing laughs and smiles illustrated their resilience. We met Lewi Kai, 44, who was desperately hoping for news of his wife, who had been working in a restaurant destroyed by the quake. ‘I have a 21 year old son, and I told him to pray. What else can we do?’

    “Muslim Aid has been working in Indonesia since 2004, we are specialists in Disaster Risk Management and are supporting great national partner NGOs on the ground. We will continue working in Indonesia, supporting communities in need and I’m proud we have been able to respond so quickly to this disaster. 

    “The tsunami death toll has now climbed to over 2,000, with another 10,600 injured. Around 5,000 people are still reported missing, and an estimated 75,400 have been internally displaced.

    “Though I’ve travelled to various conflict and natural disaster zones previously, what struck me most about this situation was how accepting people were of their fate. I was taken aback by how calm and collected the survivors appeared, despite so many of them having lost numerous members of their families, their homes and their entire livelihoods. It seemed their faith had a huge part to play, many told me, ‘everything that happens comes from God, and we thank him that we are alive at least’.  Their words, composure and positivity was a lesson I leant, and will never forget. If you look closely enough, you can find the stars shining even on the darkest nights. “

    Please help us to support these people in desperate need. Donate today

    Indonesia: Eye Witness Account
    • Indonesia: Eye Witness Account
    • Indonesia: Eye Witness Account
    • Indonesia: Eye Witness Account
    • Indonesia: Eye Witness Account

    Muslim Aid’s Fadlullah Wilmot and Sahedul Islam have just returned from Palu to the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, where they continue supporting Muslim Aid’s national partner, YKMI (The Indonesian Muslim Humanitarian Foundation) and another local NGO, PKPU, to distribute life-saving food parcels and water to some of the most difficult to reach communities affected by the quake.

    The water purification system is used to provide clean drinking water to internally displaced communities in the three affected districts of Palu, Donggala and Sigi. The system provides displaced adults and children access to 3 gallons of filtered water per minute or 14,400 litres per day, reducing chances of water-borne diseases amongst the densely packed communities living in tents and under tarpaulins.

    ‘We are very proud to have supported this initial emergency distribution through our national partner, so quickly’ says Wilmot, who is Muslim Aid’s temporary Indonesia Head of Mission. ‘This is the initial phase of our emergency response. We are looking at how to support some of the around 350,000 people whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed over the longer term’ he adds. ‘People currently staying with relatives or friends need to rebuild their lives and homes."  In addition, transitional shelters will be provided, so that the affected people can live in dignity while rebuilding their homes and livelihoods.

    When Wilmot, who worked with Muslim Aid during the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami and earthquake as well as the Yogyakara earthquakes in 2006, first arrived in Donggala and Palu, he saw ruined houses lining the shore and entire villages destroyed. He was in the disaster area providing support to local partners, and witnessed several aftershocks that saw people running ‘helter skelter’ to escape. The quake death toll has now climbed to almost 2,000, with around 1,000 people reported missing and another 10,600 injured. The latest figure of internally displaced is 75,400.

    Asif Sherazi, Muslim Aid’s Global Head of Humanitarian Programmes, emphasises Muslim Aid’s commitment to supporting Indonesians through its national partner. ‘Our country office will do everything possible to support, through our national and local partners, those who urgently need food, water, medicines, clothing, soap and other hygiene products’ he says.

    Indonesia was the first country in the world to enact legislation enshrining in law the right of citizens to be protected from natural disasters and to be provided with support and relief afterwards. The national disaster agency, and the Indonesian Red Cross, sprang into action after the recent disaster and Muslim Aid is coordinating its response through YKMI.

    Muslim Aid is specialised in disaster recovery and disaster risk reduction and has been working in Indonesia for more than 14 years, originally directly and now through YKMI.     

  • 1 Oct 2018 update Indonesia Tsunami

    Muslim Aid's Fadlullah Wilmot and Sahedul Islam have flown to Sulawesi, Indonesia to assess the damage caused by the tsunami which struck the island on Friday 29 September.

    Over 844 are reported dead and thousands are predicted to be injured. The tsunami was triggered by a magnitude 7.4 earthquake and resulted in 20 foot high waves crashing onto the coast destroying thousands of homes and causing devastation all around.

    Fadullulah Wilmot and Sahedul Islam have only recently returned from the island of Lombok, Indonesia where they were at the sharp end of earthquake chaos. They are now en route to Palu on the island of Sulawesi to assess the needs of people caught up in the tsunami and to plan the response work.

    “I don’t have words for what the people of Indonesia have suffered since the series of earthquakes hit Lombok this Summer,” says Wilmot, who is Muslim Aid’s temporary Indonesia Head of Mission, as he boarded the plane the day after the disaster struck.

    “We were on the scene immediately after the quakes in August, but I didn’t expect to be returning to Indonesia so soon for another emergency, and one so terrifying.”

    In Lombok Muslim Aid immediately provided tarpaulins, mats and blankets for people made  homeless by the quakes as well as food, water, nappies and sanitary towels. They are continuing to support the communities by building temporary shelters.

    Wilmot continues: “In Sulawesi Muslim Aid’s partner on the ground will now immediately assess needs for the most vulnerable people hit by the tsunami. We will do everything we can to support them.” 

     Indonesia Tsunami
    •  Indonesia Tsunami
  • 10 Sep 2018 update Suicide bomb blast in Somalia kills six people and closes Muslim Aid’s TB clinic

    car bomb which rammed into a district government office on Monday 10 September in Mogadishu, Somalia, and killed six people, also damaged the clinic next door run by Muslim Aid, hampering important humanitarian work.

    Muslim Aid’s clinic, Ayan MTBU in Hodan district, Mogadishu, which treats patients with tuberculosis (TB), has been badly damaged and a nurse Shamsa, working for Muslim Aid, was hurt by flying glass when the building collapsed.

    Ahmed Abdi, Country Director for Muslim Aid Somalia said: “It was a huge blast – our clinic building collapsed and windows were shattered.

    Normally we treat over 100 patients every day for TB, but we have had to immediately suspend operations while the clinic is being repaired. Our ten staff and volunteers are very frightened and we have sent them home. Fortunately none of our patients were harmed and our nurse Shamsa has only minor injuries.”

    Muslim Aid has closed the clinic and is now working to repair the damage. It hopes to reopen the clinic in a week. Patients being treated for TB will now need to receive a week’s medication to take independently. Muslim Aid has a total of 20 health clinics in Somalia, 14 of these clinics are working to eradicate tuberculosis. 

    Muslim Aid currently works across Somalia with 300,000 people. Muslim Aid’s projects work to eradicate TB, prevent malaria, improve the health of women and children and provide shelter and livelihood training for women who have escaped violence.


    Suicide bomb blast in Somalia kills six people and closes Muslim Aid's TB clinic
    • Suicide bomb blast in Somalia kills six people and closes Muslim Aid's TB clinic