Last weekend, we celebrated the Nation’s independence in Chicago, where we represented USAID at the annual convention for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). ISNA is the largest gathering of Muslims in North America, with nearly 40,000 Muslims in attendance.
We staffed USAID’s outreach and information booth, which was nestled among the hundreds of exhibition booths showcasing Islamic artwork, fashion, and literature. While we had each attended the convention previously on our own, this was our first time attending with USAID.
We talked to hundreds of Muslim Americans about the importance of foreign assistance and shared USAID stories of development in Muslim communities. USAID has a long-standing commitment to, and enduring partnerships in, developing countries around the world. There are 49 countries in the world that have more than 50 percent Muslim population. USAID has missions in 27 of them. We shared examples of how American taxpayer dollars are helping to build schools, train paramedics, construct water wells, and much, much more. We met a vibrant and diverse group of people , some of whom lead their own humanitarian initiatives, from Bangladesh to Tanzania to Turkey. Our session, “Partnering with USAID,” attracted a standing-room-only crowd of entrepreneurs and NGO leaders eager to explore ways that they could collaborate and work with USAID.
Throughout the weekend, we had the opportunity to listen and learn from many individuals with strong local knowledge and connections to the organizations and individuals in communities where USAID works. We were excited to meet so many new potential partners, and we were proud, as Americans and as Muslims, to see so many people eager to give back and to make a difference for those in need throughout the world.
Zeenat Rahman is Deputy Director for The Center for Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at USAID and Rudy Gharib is Outreach Coordinator for the Middle East Bureau.