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Muslims to help fill refugees’ back-to-school needs: Backpacks, pencils, paper

ICNA, backpacks distributed

Backpacks and other back-to-school basics are to be distributed Saturday in Clarkston, the region's destination for refugee immigrants. This was the scene in 2018. Credit: Madyun Photography via ICNA Relief

By David Pendered

At a time DeKalb County’s school system expects students to have a home computer, a Muslim organization is leading an effort to give away to refugee children a back-to-school need that’s far more basic – backpacks, paper and pencils.

ICNA backpacks

Up to 1,000 backpacks and school supplies are to be distributed Saturday in Clarkston in a back-to-school event coordinated by ICNA Relief, with support from about 20 local organizations. Special to SaportaReport by ICNA Relief

Supplies are still being accepted for the give-away in the melting pot of Clarkston that’s planned for Saturday, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Clarkston Community Center, 3701 College Ave, Clarkston 30021. The lead sponsor is Islamic Circle of North America Relief, with support from about 20 local partners.

The school system’s expectations of computer access are clear in the district’s web page for students. Detailed information about the district’s countywide back-to-school rally is provided on the webpage aimed at students:

  • “[L]ive entertainment, food, refreshments, as well as limited supplies for families, health screenings, and other resources for parents. For more information, contact DCSD Parent and Family Engagement at 678-676-0384 or family_engagement@dekalbschoolsga.org.”

The Muslim program is intended to help students and families who are in a different place as they begin to assimilate into their new homeland.

Up to 1,000 backpacks are to be distributed Saturday, and several hundred more are to be given to other organizations that are to distribute them in other regions in metro Atlanta.

Along with filling a basic need for students, the backpack give-away program has another objective: Preventing the potential embarrassment some refugee children may experience if they show up for class without even the most basic provisions, according to Fatimah Wadood, a relief coordinator with ICNA – which is leading the event Saturday in Clarkston.

ICNA, fire department

DeKalb County Fire and Rescue dispatched an engine to add to the celebration at the 2018 back-to-school backpack giveaway program led by ICNA Relief. Credit: Madyun Photography via ICNA Relief

“It’s one less thing they’ll have to feel different about,” Wadood said of the backpack and supplies. “Now they won’t have to worry that they don’t have paper and pencils. They can focus on learning, instead of what they don’t have.”

The effort reminds that some refugee children will be attending school for the first time. For them, it’s more a moment to celebrate than to regret the last days of summer vacation.

“It’s a milestone for some of them to be in school,” Wadood said.

The event in Clarkston is part of ICNA Relief’s  #OneNationOneCause Back2School Drive. The program is slated for more than 70 cities in a total of 35 states and Puerto Rico.

The program distributed in 2018 an estimated 45,000 backpacks with supplies, according to a statement from INCA Relief. Since the program was started in 2009, nearly 250,000 backpacks with supplies have been distributed through programs based in 56 chapters, including 17 transitional shelters for women and children.

Nearly 30 local organizations have partnered in the backpack giveaway. According to ICNA Relief, the list of partners includes:

  • The Baig Firm, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Interfaith Children’s movement (ICM), Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta, New American Pathways, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Georgia, Center of Pan Asian Community Services (CPACS), Atlanta Community Food Bank, U & M family Eyecare, CDF: A Collective Action Initiative, Refugee Women’s Network, Inc., International Rescue Committee Atlanta (IRC), SCN Atlanta/Georgians for Syrian Refugees, WellCare Health Plans, Refuge Coffee Co., Madina Restaurant, Georgia Tamil Muslim Association, Maryam Masjid, Taubah Academy, Project Hope Atlanta, Catholic Charities Atlanta, Ambu-Link Ambulance Service,  Helping the Community, Gwinnett Islamic Center,  Masjid Maryam, Masjid Omar Bin Abdul Aziz, Masjid Al-Hedaya, Masjid Uthman, and The Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam.

To make a donation or learn more, ICNA Relief is relying on digital communication: Contact Wadood at afatimah.wadood@icnarelief.org, or support ICNA Relief through Amazon Smile. 


ICNA, hank johnson

Congressman Hank Johnson (D-Lithonia) spent time with children and families at the 2018 backpack event sponsored by ICNA Relief. Credit: Madyun Photography via ICNA Relief


ICNA, backpacks distributed

Backpacks and other back-to-school basics are to be distributed Saturday in Clarkston, the region’s destination for refugee immigrants. This was the scene in 2018. Credit: Madyun Photography via ICNA Relief

David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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