Raheel Tauyyab, Mohtamim Khidmat-e-Khalq, MKA USA
On 28 September 2022 Hurricane Ian made landfall on the western coast of the state of Florida with sustained winds of 155 mph. The initial estimate of the damage caused is well over USD 50 billion. The storm has taken the lives of at least 157 people with at least 130 people losing their lives in Florida alone, making it the deadliest hurricane in the state since 1935.
Around 11 pm on 27 October 2022, a group of 11 members of Majlis Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya USA arrived in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, from Chicago, Illinois, to assist with the humanitarian and disaster relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Ian.
On 28 to 30 October 2022, a team of 22 khuddam participated in the clean-up efforts following Hurricane Ian. Dr Safeer Bhatti Sahib served as our local coordinator from Humanity First and Sadr Jamaat Miami, Manawar Chaudhry Sahib, helped with local accommodations, among other things.
This was the second set of khuddam volunteers that visited the areas to assist; while the first group was sent for immediate humanitarian assistance, this group focused on restoring the communities hit the hardest.
Khuddam set out from Baitul Naseer Mosque in Ft. Lauderdale on 28 October and drove two and a half hours to Ft Myers, where the hurricane made landfall. They offered Jumuah prayer at the home of a local khadim, Bilal Hafeez Sahib, who had offered his home for the group to stay at for the weekend.
12 khuddam then departed for Pine Island and Matlacha, two islands where the storm was particularly violent. They assisted with four homes for approximately four hours. The first house was that of an elderly man who was 89 years old. His home required that broken roof tiles be removed and debris around his house be cleaned up.
After helping, the man was incredibly grateful for our humble efforts and praised that such groups existed to help those in need. He introduced us to others in the community, with whom we shared our contacts and offered assistance as well. We assisted one of the man’s neighbours, who needed help with some external clean-up, including broken glass and other debris; the owner was similarly very appreciative.
Down the road, we assisted an older lady with the removal of some heavy items inside her home and completely cleaned the outside of her house. She was very impressed at both how quickly we responded to her request online and how quickly we were able to get all of the work done; we were able to complete the tasks that would have taken her all day in just over an hour. This lady was very appreciative of our help, she mentioned that she had no family to assist her and was suffering from some ailments that made it difficult for her to work for long. She said that our services were a huge blessing for her.
We similarly helped her neighbour, who was an elderly man. Although he was sad to see he had to throw away so much of his damaged belongings, he was very happy we were able to help him through the process.
Around sunset, khuddam went back to the place of stay, and the next day, a group from the Miami jamaat drove two and a half hours to Ft. Myers. The group consisted of nine additional khuddam along with some other members. Both groups met up and set up a temporary food distribution centre on Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., a popular street in Ft. Myers.
For about an hour, khuddam gave out food and water to locals who were in the area. Those receiving items were very appreciative of the efforts of the team. One man who was just passing said that we were doing amazing work and that he was very thankful for all of us. We met him again inside a local store and he approached us to again show his gratitude for helping an area that has historically been very poor.
After the food distribution, the team offered Zuhr and Asr prayers in a local park and then ate lunch.
Afterwards, the team of 22 khuddam and a few others headed to Fort Myers Beach, an area by the coast which was hit the hardest. Here, we offered our assistance to the entire neighbourhood taking, on various tasks.
One of the neighbours, named Chris, had two young children who were living in horrible conditions due to flooding that had destroyed their home. The family was afraid of doing some of the heavy work because it would be difficult to do with the children. Seven of our khuddam were able to remove the entirety of his drywall, which was damaged due to flood water entering. Chris was very happy with the work the khuddam did and requested that we come back next week if time permitted. We sent another team the following week.
Similarly, another neighbour was helped with cleaning out her home; she also expressed her sincere gratitude. At the same time, a group split off to help out in a mobile home community about two miles away. This group also offered assistance to the community, although not much was needed.
A few khuddam noticed an elderly lady in the neighbouring mobile home community trying to remove her roof by herself. We drove over to this lady and noticed she had cut herself trying to pull off the sagging metal roof. After offering medical assistance, khuddam assisted her in removing the broken roof and helped with the interior of her home. The homeowner expressed her gratitude for the work completed.
Down the street, another woman was assisted with completely removing the interior of her home. The work completed in her home would have taken days, however, a group of just eight khuddam were able to complete the home in just a few hours. The lady was thankful that all this work was able to be done in such a short time. She thanked the team profusely for assisting her in what seemed like an unimaginable task at the beginning.
Another team simultaneously went to the homes on the coast, about five miles away, to assist with removing the interior of that home. Those who were assisted would often ask if we would be able to help their neighbours as well. Although we weren’t able to help one of these neighbours, because the task required special equipment, the neighbour expressed her amazement that we were offering such services and that we were travelling so far to assist with the clean-up effort. She thanked us for everything we were doing and praised the work of the khuddam.
Before sunset, all 22 khuddam departed for another local khadim’s home to offer Maghrib and Isha prayers and to have dinner. The group from Miami jamaat returned home later that evening. The remaining 12 khuddam continued to work the following day on the homes that were started on Saturday. Some work remained in these homes to be completed and we provided our contact details so that we could coordinate any future help for them.
Another team of khuddam would arrive the following week and assist these homes further. Every home that we visited, received us very well, whether we ended up assisting the homeowner or not.
Khuddam were able to assist about 9 homes with major clean-up and repairs. In total, 22 khuddam participated in these efforts across the three days. The total number of hours contributed by khuddam was about 252. There were well over 100 people assisted during the weekend.