Local charity supports refugees during COVID-19 crisis

A small army of volunteers is working to help those often forgotten in a time of crisis.

An-Nisa Hope Center has focused on helping families in crisis for 10 years.

“We saw that the epidemic was getting bad,” says Community Liason Sadaf Patel. “It was going to hurt every aspect of family life.”

The group also knew the COVID-19 crisis was calling for them to expand.

“The first thing was to make sure everybody knew how to stay safe,” she adds.

In March, the organization created a phone bank, reaching more than 2,000 low-income families to talk about hand washing and social distancing.

Then, they would follow up by sending out fliers in several languages. Many went to refugees who don't speak English and fell behind on the latest recommendations.

“We have a huge refugee population including Afghanis, Syrians, Iraqis, Burmese, the Sudannis," says Patel.

“If something like their hourly wage is affected they don’t have food on the table,” explains Patel. “Plus, they usually live in apartments that are near each other, so there’s a lot of congregation.”

An-Nisa joined with volunteers from other Muslim organizations to help the unemployed with rent, taxes, and food. They also started nightly “Let’s Talk” discussions on Facebook, virtual education assistance, elderly help, prescription assistance and more- all in the course of three weeks.

"We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel; we had we didn’t have time!”

The phone bank, now a hotline, started taking orders for needed items. People could pick up the packages or get them dropped off.

MORE: Donations needed for local hospitals and first responders

“Our volunteers were dropping off cleaning products, diapers, wipes, anything that was on the needs list," Patel says.

So far, they say they've gotten care packages to more than 400 families and far exceeded their original $20,000 fundraising goal.

The organization is now connecting with more outreach groups and a local restaurant, Bar BQ Village, to serve 250 meals to the homeless daily.

It's a system of hundreds of volunteers, working in times they've never seen before.

“It’s brought a lot of unity, and it’s shown us that when it counts people, do come together,” says Patel. “We'll get through this as a community- a Houston strong community.”

For more information or to help out, please call 713-352-0445 or visit www.annisahopecenter.org

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