American Muslims Respond in Joplin, MO – Randa Kuziez on the Frontlines with ICNA Relief
Randa Kuziez – June 3, 2010
JOPLIN, MO – I was in Joplin last week, shortly after the devastating tornado that destroyed thousands of homes and left 139 dead so far and over 230 missing. While I’m finishing note, we are preparing for our first group of volunteers from St. Louis to head to Joplin today and work with ICNA relief to do disaster relief and home repair this weekend.
Our trip last week was very disorienting, a reminder of our humanity, that we are responsible for one another and move by His command only. A small group of us drove to Joplin with ICNA Relief to do an assessment of the situation on the ground with the goal of bringing in volunteers in the coming weeks to serve in the relief efforts and prepare to assist in the long term recovery. Seeing the aerial pictures, listening to the stories, and reading the news had prepared me only lightly for the destruction we saw on the ground when we drove through where the tornado hit.
We started out at the Islamic Center of Joplin, which welcomed us with open arms while housing some of the Muslim families that lost their home during the tornado, including the Imam. The Islamic Center has not been in the path of the tornado, and thus now serves as home base for the ICNA Relief efforts in Joplin.
Once we left the Islamic Center, we started to drive towards the disaster zone with a short stop at the Abundant Hope Church of Joplin. They were loading protein packs for the families that lost their homes and did not have access to healthy food in the shelters. One of the women, Debbie, kindly offered to guide us through the closed disaster zone in her truck while she made various food deliveries. A long-time Joplin resident she said, “I did suffer from the tornado, but I want to make sure I give all my time and energy to help those that did.”
I was definitely not prepared for what we saw when drove through. It was catastrophic-families wandering around their flattened homes, ambulance cars still searching for missing persons and bodies, and the hospital where my father used to work a few years ago destroyed. Debbie shared with us stories from the ground, one of a sister who lost brother as he was pushed flat on the ground by the tornado and died immediately from the impact, and many more. As Debbie drove us through what we thought was the worst of the destruction, she said, “And this is not even the worst of it.” A loud silence and many tears followed.
We quietly loaded our cars and drove to Kansas City that night to meet with Jane from ICNA Relief to discuss disaster relief, long term recovery, the role of volunteers and donor funds. She too had recently returned from Joplin, Alabama, and Tennessee. She taught us that ICNA does incredible domestic relief work with a focus on the four C’s: coordination, collaboration, cooperation, and communication. Usually, after a natural disaster, there is chaos on the ground with no coordination amongst all the government and non-government bodies. These four C’s are key in primary disaster response to prevent that chaos as much as possible. ICNA finds the systems in place and hopes to fit their work into established structure and make sure they cooperate with all the agencies. Yet, they are unique because they fill in the gaps as to what’s missing on the ground. Thus, after the meeting, I was excited to be working with ICNA Relief, to bring in versatile volunteers, ready for anything.
On the long drive home, I went through the photos and videos I took. I stared for a long time at this picture of this uprooted tree. A strong, thick, trunk with strong roots simply pulled from the ground and thrown somewhere completely away from its base. Such was the case of the lives lost and families uprooted in Joplin. However, just like a tree, the roots are strong and the trunk resilient. It can be re-planted, will grow again and bring the world its fruit and beautiful green leaves. It is not a simple process though, and takes prayer, funds, time, effort, and much help from the community. It is our duty as American Muslims, be a part of that.
How you can help:
A group of us will be returning to Joplin this weekend to volunteer. However, for those not able to come, there is still a chance to get involved and make a difference by donating today. The Quran reminds us to “be steadfast in your prayer and pay charity, whatever good you send forth for your future, you shall find it with God, for God is well aware of what you do” (2:110). Our time and funds can assist in the relief efforts and help repair broken lives. Another Hadith reminds us that “No wealth is decreased because of charity.” Let’s give and give Inshallah.
Please consider donating to ICNA Relief. They’re on the ground, coordinating with government and non-government agencies to make sure they’re not duplicating efforts. Your funds will help purchase supplies for families who lost everything, fix homes that were outside of the radius that was worst hit, as well as the long term recovery and rebuilding of Joplin. ICNA serves people from all faiths, backgrounds, and does not discriminate between who receives help. The goal is to serve effectively, as our Islam calls to do.
I’ll leave you with a video from some of what we saw in Joplin. A video does not to justice to the scene on the ground.
May Allah grant patience to all those suffering in Joplin and around the world, and give us the strength and means to pray for them and serve them to our utmost capabilities and capacities.
Randa Kuziez, former MSA National Vice President and Faith Acts Fellow at Malaria No More, is currently volunteering in Joplin, MO, and will be joining Muslims Without Borders for a relief mission in Haiti.
**update 8/8/2013 – The Islamic center of Joplin which served as the staging area where American Muslim relief agencies responded to the horrific tornadoes was burned down in an arson attack on August 6, 2012 – please help rebuild this masjid that has given so much to its community - http://www.indiegogo.com/joplinmosqueofficial