PARKERSBURG - A dozen student volunteers from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. ,are helping build homes for local residents.
The volunteers are working this week in south Parkersburg on Habitat for Humanity projects as part of an outreach effort by the Muslim students.
Imam Yahya Hendi, Muslim chaplain for Georgetown University, said he had recently spoken to the students about helping those around them while promoting Muslim Americans.
Photo by Michael Erb
Georgetown University sophomore Zainab Ibrahim, left, and freshman Erva Khan, right, cut a board Tuesday while working on a Habitat for Humanity home in south Parkersburg.
"I asked how we can best translate our faith into action, how we can best be Americans. The idea is to be there for those who are overlooked," he said. "The students decided to take this idea seriously."
Wardah Athar, a junior at Georgetown and president of the college's Muslim Students Association, said she began calling Habitat for Humanity offices within a seven-state area offering the group's services. Because of the group's size and the timeframe of its availability, the group was turned down for all but the Parkersburg project.
"This was the one that accepted our help," Athar said.
While in town the group also has been attending services at area churches and making new friends.
The American Red Cross volunteered to provide meals for those working on the homes.
Gwen Miles, volunteer coordinator for Wood County Habitat for Humanity, said she was thrilled with the offer.
"They are one of the most delightful groups of students you are ever going to meet," she said. "This is the first group of muslim students (to volunteer here) and the first group we've had from as far away as Washington, D.C.
"Not many students would give up their Spring Break to come work in cold and snowy Parkersburg," Miles said. "They are making the best of it."
Sophomore Zainab Ibrahim and freshman Erva Khan said they welcomed the opportunity.
"The community here has been so warm and welcoming. It's been great," Ibrahim said. "You realize it is real people you are helping; real lives. It gives weight to our actions."
"It really doesn't matter what our religion is," Khan said. "We are all working with our hands, working with the same tools. This is what we should be doing as Muslims, helping people."
"Ours is a religion of compassion and peace," Hendi said. "This is the kind of future I want to have for the next generation of Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Everyone working together."
Athar said it has been a rewarding experience.
"We are learning so much more than we are helping," she said. "We are lucky to be here."