New Zealand: Muslim women serve the homeless
By: EMILY SPINK
Young Muslim women are helping to feed the homeless and in turn, crush negative perceptions of their faith.
Members of Nisa – a group focused on women helping and empowering other women – volunteer their time to Christchurch charity Help for the Homeless once a month.
University students Addeana Husaini, 19, Asayal Almutairi, 17 and Rabia Mofassir, 18, are among those who dish out food and lunch packs to those in need.
“As a group we’ve been demonised, so it’s nice for people to see what we’re actually like and what our faith is actually about, rather than something that a very small minority has picked up on,” Mofassir said.
They were nervous when they joined the initiative last year, thinking they would be judge for being “chicks in scarves”, she said.
Husaini and Almutairi both wore head scarves and were sometimes confronted on the streets by strangers who questioned or insulted their appearance.
In Latimer Square, they were made to “feel really welcome”.
“Now we come, and they don’t see us as a chick in a scarf, but as people and almost friends, but there is no active converting people,” said Denise Jaeger, who helped co-ordinate the younger women.
“We want to show we value them as human beings and I think a lot of people don’t see the homeless as human beings. We want to say ‘it could be us so easily’.”
Men, young mothers and teens were among those they met. They laughed together and shared stories and knowledge.
“Driving home, you wonder what they are going to do now . . . or you watch them go sit on a bench and it can be really hard,” Almutairi said.
Help for the Homeless founder Amy Burke said their deep fried chicken was a hit and voted to be better than KFC.
“They’ve really warmed up and come a long way,” Burke said.
Najah Mohammed, 24, helped rally the muslim community to get involved.
“It’s made me more grateful for the basic things,” she said.
On Sunday, she was caught off guard with a light-hearted proposal from one of the diners.
The monthly dinner had become very much a part of the young women’s routine.
“It’s our duty. It feels wrong if we don’t do it,” Mohammed said.
Henare ‘Uncle’ Mclean, who was a familiar face on the streets, said the group’s involvement made “everybody happy”.
“They’re amazing. They’re taking time out of their day to feed us lot.”
With “happy tums”, some headed to abandoned buildings for the night, while others, like Michael Jemmett, 31, were off to the City Mission.
Jemmett had spent the last six years living on the street, after his family’s New Brighton home was wrecked in Canterbury’s earthquakes.
“This is something we can hopefully keep doing,” Jaeger said.