NEW YORK CITY, New York — Muslim Hands, an international NGO based in the United Kingdom, works in more than 30 countries worldwide to combat poverty. Leveraging unique strategies such as installing tube wells and utilizing solar energy, Muslim Hands works to address both the short-term and long-term issues that arise from poverty to address the root of the problem. The impressive, wide range of work done as Muslim Hands fights global poverty opens the door to a brighter future worldwide.
The Creation of Muslim Hands
Muslim Hands has humble beginnings dating back to 1993 when the Bosnian war moved “a community in Nottingham” to action. After “a small group of volunteers” collected monetary donations, clothes and medication for the individuals suffering in Bosnia, these volunteer efforts expanded, the Muslim Hands website says. As more people joined the effort to fight back against poverty and the influence began to spread worldwide, Muslim Hands was born out of inspiration from faith and devotion to caring for others.
Tijen Horoz, communications manager at Muslim Hands, explained to The Borgen Project in an interview that “The growth was organic. It did start off as total grassroots… Once the war had ended, the initial group wanted to do more to support the survivors and that is when they came together to look into establishing something more permanent.” Now, Muslim Hands fights global poverty in a multitude of ways.
The Water Problem
One significant problem that resides in the presence of poverty is a lack of clean water. This is because a “lack of safe water and poverty are mutually reinforcing” — poverty diminishes one’s ability to access clean water and access to clean water is critical to poverty reduction, according to Lifewater. Because increasing water availability can reduce poverty, Muslim Hands fights global poverty by dedicating resources to improving safe water sources.
Muslim Hands provides clean water by installing manually operated tube wells that can draw water from roughly 30 meters under the ground. These wells are conveniently placed between clusters of homes and are simple to maintain. A single tube well allows “up to four families” access to safe and clean water to fulfill their basic needs for a minimum of 10 years.
Other solutions to the water problem include the Dig-a-Well and community well. Dig-a-Wells provide water on a larger scale, serving up to 35 households. “Ideal for families who rely on agriculture and farming,” Dig-a-Wells are placed in communal centers, such as schools or mosques. Community wells, the largest of the three types of wells, can provide more than 1,000 people with clean water and are intentionally positioned in water-scarce areas. Together, these wells have supplied clean and safe water to more than 2.6 million individuals.
Fighting for Educational Equity
Another issue that accompanies and exacerbates poverty is inadequate education. Impoverished students lack the resources to do their homework at home, have inadequate access to computers or the Internet and receive less help from their parents who may face the strain of long working hours or juggling “multiple jobs” to make ends meet.
Muslim Hands takes a holistic approach to fight for educational equity by:
- Training teachers and providing them with the expertise and skills that will translate into student success.
- Providing high-quality learning facilities, such as computer labs and libraries to assist with educational attainment. Muslim Hands even provides sports facilities that encourage physical education.
- Supplying nutritious meals, school bags, uniforms and more to ensure that the costs of schooling are no obstacle to receiving a proper education.
So far, 25,000 children have received an education thanks to Muslim Hands.
A Sustainable Approach
The environment can “keep people trapped in a cycle of poverty,” the Muslim Hands website says. For example, World Vision states that “overcrowded urban areas increase the risk of disease” and subsequent financial burdens to care for the sick. Additionally, “soil erosion and deforestation” can lead to a decrease in crop yields and wood shortages lead to higher selling prices, making it difficult for impoverished families to purchase wood as a form of fuel.
Recognizing that more sustainable solutions are needed to improve the environment and alleviate poverty, Muslim Hands took a multifaceted approach to environmental sustainability. For example, Muslim Hands is moving toward sustainability by buying food, clothes and other essentials locally to ignite growth in the local economy and decrease the carbon footprint, or environmental impact.
Other examples include reducing emissions through solar energy usage and encouraging orchard planting to “bind the soil and provide people with a natural, long-term income source.” In addition, Muslim Hands plants trees and installs waste disposal units in areas. Altogether, these efforts are working to protect local environments and contribute to the fight against global poverty. Horoz remarked that Muslim Hands’ interventions “build resilience, (proactive, rather than just being responsive) and work in harmony with the environment.”
Filling Empty Stomachs
One of the most challenging aspects of living in poverty is dealing with hunger. According to World Vision, “poverty is the principal cause of world hunger” as people cannot afford nutritious food, land or supplies needed to grow food. Even further, those who suffer from hunger experience low energy levels, which reduces mental and physical functioning. This makes it more difficult to work and ultimately contributes to the vicious cycle of poverty.
Fortunately, Muslim Hands has developed a few different solutions to alleviate hunger. The first is the Food Fund, which ranges from providing emergency food relief for war victims to nutritious meals for impoverished students.
Meanwhile, the Food 4 Kids appeal focuses on addressing malnutrition and related nutritional diseases to save the lives of children. As part of the program, Muslim Hands trains educators and health care professionals on how to identify and treat these conditions.
In another example, the Open Kitchen serves free meals to those experiencing food poverty in the U.K. Lastly, Muslim Hands teams run six bread factories providing 50,000 loaves of daily bread across Yemen and Syria.
Ultimately, the work of Muslim Hands provides a glimpse of hope in the fight to end world poverty. Despite the extensive work required to fulfill Muslim Hands’ lofty goals, it is easy to recognize the importance of what the organization does. Speaking on the wide range of work done as Muslim Hands fights global poverty, Horoz remarked, “Short-term relief is important in addressing the needs that arise directly from an emergency and ongoing short-term interventions are also a good way of reaching people with life-saving aid and also assessing the need in communities. However, “without long-term support, it is just applying a band-aid to a wound… It is important to empower people so they are able to support themselves and instigate real change,” Horoz concluded.
– Sarah DiLuzio