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Member Profile March 2017

Islamic Relief Canada


Zaid Al-Rawni

This month, CCIC met with Zaid Al-Rawni, CEO of Islamic Relief Canada to discuss the relief and development work they do globally – and domestically – and of the changing roles for Canadian NGOs working internationally.

CCIC - Islamic Relief works with communities in over 40 countries to strengthen their resilience to calamities, and provide vital emergency aid when disasters occur. Please tell us about a recent project of which you are particular proud. 

Zaid Al-Rawni - One project that we are very proud of is our Raspberry farming project in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The region is still reeling from the war that took place in the 1990s. Women are the ones who find it hard to find work to support their families. Official national figures estimate that around 20 percent of the population lives below the nationally-defined poverty line and 30 percent just above the poverty line.

In this project, Islamic Relief trains orphan families and single female-headed households on raspberry planting so that they can earn a living by growing and selling raspberries.

Islamic Relief Canada provides families with relevant equipment, training, and land  to enable raspberry planting, growing, marketing and selling. The autonomy that comes with a project of this nature allows for these families to be lifted out of poverty and become contributing members of their economy and society. 


CCIC - Islamic Relief Canada helps the impoverished access basic services, including education, water and sanitation, and healthcare, and provides lasting routes out of poverty through sustainable development schemes. How does your organization educate, inspire, and engage Canadians on the importance of your work?

Zaid Al-Rawni - We strongly believe in community engagement and have worked hard over the last ten years to build a strong and trusting relationship with Canadians - specifically the Muslim community. In 2016, we raised a total of over $20 million from the Muslim community in Canada. We educate, inspire and engage Canadians on our work through community events, fundraising dinners, mosques outreach and by empowering volunteers and staff to own projects and causes.

In Ramadan, which is the holy month of fasting for Muslims, we reached out to our supporters and volunteers and encouraged them to organise fundraising dinners in their homes for an Islamic Relief project of their choice.  With our support, Canadians across the country were mobilising their friends and families to come together to donate towards humanitarian programmes in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Our Ramadan campaign raised a total of $ 8.2 million.

We also participate in media initiatives, forums  and local and international conferences where we present and share our expertise on the work that we do. Recently we took part in a UN Women conference  raising awareness about our work on women and girls  - which was also attended by various Canadian NGOs, Ministers and MPs.


CCIC - According to the UN Humanitarian Chief, the world currently faces the largest humanitarian crisis since the United Nations was founded in 1945, with more than 20 million people in four countries facing starvation and famine. Given the Prime Minister's pledge that "Canada is back" on the world stage, do you think there is an opportunity for Canada to take a leadership role in humanitarian assistance? What type of response would you like from Global Affairs Canada?

Zaid Al-Rawni - We believe Canada has an important role to play on the world stage when it comes to humanitarian assistance. We are a country stronger together not in spite of our differences, but because of them, as our Prime Minister has said. We welcome the recent Government announcement of funding to respond to the crises we are seeing in Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Yemen. Here at Islamic Relief , we've received 1.5 million for a project in Yemen.


CCIC - Given the recent Quebec mosque shooting, and the troubling international trends, do you see a shift in the domestic role of Canadian NGOs working internationally?

Zaid Al-Rawni - Of course. The Quebec mosque shootings was a threat to all Canadians. We were personally affected as we had a strong relationship with the mosque and some of our volunteers were injured that day. When it comes to domestic work, for us, we believe that there is a balance. We've been around in Canada for 10 years now (this year marks our 10 year anniversary) and over the years we've been expanding our work here in Canada for all communities of all faiths.

We are actively assisting the victims of the Quebec mosque shootings. Last year, we mobilised our teams in Edmonton to help those affected by the Fort Mcmurray wildfires and we supported  the resettlement programme for Syrian refugees arriving in Canada. We're also pursuing initiatives on ending violence against women and girls in Canada.

With everything that is going on in the world right now, we feel that as the largest Muslim NGO in Canada we have a responsibility to step up when we are needed for all Canadians - regardless of race, gender or religion.  I think that as more events change here in Canada, we will see more NGOs starting to venture into more domestic projects - while still maintaining its strong international presence. There is a balance and we are working to achieve that where we can be the voice of Canadian Muslims in Canada and around the world.


CCIC - Islamic Relief Canada is an important member of CCIC. What contribution do you hope to bring to CCIC and what value does CCIC bring to your work?

Zaid Al-Rawni - We are honoured to be a CCIC member. We hope that we can work together with its members and staff to achieve our goals of ending global poverty and promoting social justice and human dignity for all.



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