Education is power: Islamic Center volunteers fill, donate backpacks for children in need

Rose Omar, right, Ahmad Sheikh, Ibrahim Ahmad and Haneef Ahmad fill backpacks with basic school supplies Tuesday at the Islamic Center of Cape Girardeau.

Fred Lynch

To help the poor and needy is among the highest callings in the Quran, and for members of the Islamic Center of Cape Girardeau, one way to accomplish this is to hand out backpacks filled with school supplies to area students in need.

Ahmad Sheikh said the center partners with ICNA Relief for the distribution, which numbered 500 backpacks on hand Friday evening at the Cape Girardeau location.

“We started in 2011,” Sheikh said. “This is our seventh year participating.”

Sheikh said every year they’ve participated, they’ve filled at least 350, sometimes as many as 700 backpacks.

“This year, our target is 500,” Sheikh said.

Ahmed Imam, left, passes a backpack to Shafiq Malik as they fill them with basic school supplies Tuesday at the Islamic Center of Cape Girardeau.

Fred Lynch

ICNA Relief is a nationwide organization, Sheikh said, and each year, they distribute more than 20,000 backpacks in several states.

According to ICNA Relief’s website, more than 100,000 backpacks have been distributed in 26 states since 2009, when the program began.

“There are two reasons we do this,” Sheikh said, watching the assembly line of volunteers adding notebooks, folders, pencils, sharpeners, crayons, glue sticks and erasers to backpacks. “One is the power of education, which the Quran emphasizes.”

The other reason is charity, Sheikh said.

“We want to make sure all children in the Cape area have what they need,” Sheikh said, adding, “Charity begins at home. This is our home.”

During the holy month of Ramadan, the Islamic Center held a fundraiser and school-supply drive, Sheikh said, and ICNA Relief provided the remainder of needed supplies.

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