My name is Aadil Akbar, and I am a senior graduating from Irvington High School this year. As some of you may know, Irvington students are required to complete the QUEST project, which is a year long social issues project in which we identify, learn, and perform community service pertaining to an issue we face in today’s world. I chose the issue of homelessness in Alameda County, because I have seen first hand how vast of a growing issue it is in our community, affecting thousands of financially disadvantaged families, senior citizens, and veterans. Living in one of the most expensive parts of our nation, our county’s homeless population faces a greater financial struggle than anywhere else in the U.S., making it far more difficult to regain stability, let alone find permanent housing. That is where non profit organizations like Salaam Food Pantry come to play, which assist the homeless and needy to live somewhat comfortable lives while living unsheltered or in temporary settlements.
I spent the whole year learning about homelessness in Alameda County through extensive research I gathered ranging from statistics, surveys, current policies set in place to combat the issue, and local non profit organizations. The last phase of my project was to complete my service plan of distributing pre-made hygiene kits to the homeless alongside Salaam Food Pantry. I created a GoFundMe campaign to fundraise for the purchase of these kits in bulk quantity from a wholesaler online; but unfortunately, after having raised ample funds and placing the order for these kits, the COVID 19 shelter in place orders began taking effect, and I was unable to go forward with my service plan. Had the coronavirus not occurred, the kit distribution would have taken place at the Teen Center in Lake Elizabeth, where the City of Fremont grants permission for the inside of the center to be open to unsheltered homeless individuals to spend the night during winters, on a first come first serve basis.
As a change of plans, I brought my kits to hand out during one of Salaam Food Pantry’s food distributions this past Saturday. I volunteered in helping prepare grocery bags full of food and vegetables, and once these bags were complete, I would include one of my hygiene kits as a final addition. Distributing these kits at Salaam Pantry’s monthly food distribution put them to a substantially greater use than intended, as a matter of fact even better than the original plan, because we are currently living through a global pandemic in which hygiene is of utmost priority and consideration everywhere we go. Along with receiving grocery bags with a ration of food, these individuals can also ensure that they themselves remain clean when handling their grocery and other items.
I would like to give a huge thank you to Naseer Irfan for the wonderful opportunities he presented me with and for being my consultant throughout the school year. He was an immense help in providing me with the information and guidance via personal interviews to better create an impactful project, and for allowing me to volunteer at the food distributions for experience hours. He is doing the community a great duty with these monthly food distributions, and may Allah give him ajar in the hereafter.