From the Factivist, Spring 2012
By Lubna Umar Sami, Volunteer Writer
In 1992, the Islamic Family Social Services Association was established as a registered charitable organization after some dedicated community members came to the realization that many unskilled, low income and refugee status immigrants were having difficulty satisfying their needs for food, clothing and household items. They also found that this cross-section of the community needs guidance and counselling for various issues that arise because of poverty and living in a culture that is different from their own. IFSSA started a program that aimed to meet both the physical and emotional needs of the community. Under this program it started providing food, clothing and household items free of cost to needy immigrants and counselling via a registered clinical psychology counsellor.
After identifying the need to help immigrant youth develop and to reduce family violence in immigrant communities, IFSSA started the Youth Development and Parental Education program in 2002 and the Fostering Healthy Families program in 2009. Currently, IFSSA is managed by twelve volunteer board members, four paid staff, and many dedicated volunteers.
IFSSA's vision is to help foster and support Muslim families and seeks out to meet the basic physical and emotional needs of the community within an Islamic context (Islamic Family Social Services Association, 2012). It offers several programs that serve the Edmonton Muslim community:
Essential Needs Program (Food Bank, Clothing and Household Items)
Muslims must observe specific dietary criterion. As a result, Muslims need to be concerned about the food they eat and how it is prepared. For instance, meat products must be slaughtered according to Islamic guidelines and food must be free of alcohol and pork products and by products. Food that is prepared following these guidelines is considered to be Halal. The fact that there wasnt a Halal food bank in Edmonton was a major reason why the IFSSA was established. It is is the only social service organization in the city of Edmonton that provides a completely Halal food bank for all of its clients. IFSSA offers its food bank services to anyone who is in need regardless of religion, race or gender affiliation.
The associations Food bank service is provided by a client services administrator and program chair. This is a community sponsored program that is entirely dependent on community donations and volunteering. In addition to regular food hampers, IFSSA also provides special supplements and Eid-ul-Fitr Celebration gift cards during the month of Ramadan.
In 2010-2011 this program provided 1176 food hampers and special supplements to 275 needy families. 175 families were given Eid Celebration gift cards to celebrate and enjoy the event.
Clothing and household items are also donated by community members. It includes both new and slightly used good conditioned items.
Fostering Healthy Families (FHF) Program
In 2009, Government of Albertas Safe Community Initiative program funded IFSSA to develop the Fostering Healthy Families program to prevent and support victims of family violence in the immigrant community of Edmonton. Currently program has two trained and competent paid staff and six volunteers to deliver the required services. Staff and volunteers are committed to meeting the needs of the community in an efficient and culturally sensitive manner. Services under this program include:
Family Violence Education
This program conducts at least two big educational events on family violence in a year. In addition to face to face prevention and intervention education it also arranges different workshops by a registered clinical psychologist on different topics of family violence. In November 2010, an educational event No Peace in the Home, No Peace in the Heart was held at the University of Alberta. Over thirty participants attended this educational program.
Monthly Serenity Support Group/Sisters Helping Sisters
This monthly support group for the victims of family violence is conducted by a registered social worker with the collaboration of The Today Family Violence Help Centre. The uniqueness of this group is not only to empower the participants to deal with their challenging situations bravely but also to network and support each other. From July 2010 to March 2011, sixty five people attended the group. Participants increased their knowledge about issues relating to family violence, types of abuse, cycle of abuse, self-care, and safety planning.
FHF program also provides a subsidized counselling program for the victims of family violence. Since the start of the program, 19 families have enjoyed therapy facilitation by a registered clinical psychologist.
Transportation and Essential Needs Services
Essential Needs services are provided through Essential Need Program of IFSSA. Transportation is also provided in case of need either by taxi or FHFs reliable volunteers. During 2010 and 2011 it provided transportation to 144 clients for different types of appointments.
FHF program provides client needs appropriate referrals to family violence victims. Outreach worker accompanies clients for their appointments to various needed community serving agencies and advocates on behalf of the clients. From March 2010 to March-2011, this program served 771 families, 1004 adults, 1471 children (0 to 12 years), and youth (13 to 17 years).
Youth Development and Parenting Education Program
This program started in 2002. It provides services to the youth in the Islamic community through the following programs.
Homework club is provided in collaboration with Edmonton Mennonite Center for Newcomers at Saint Francis School from 3:00 to 4:30 every Monday.
This program is provided at J. Percy Page High School from 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm every Wednesday. It provides information about teen violence and other teens relevant topics.
This program is provided by a registered clinical psychologist on every other Friday at MAC Rahma Mosque (6102-172 Street) for two hours after sunset. Everyone is invited to attend this session. Next two sessions will be on May 25 and June 8, 2012.
Its sessions are also held at MAC Rahma Mosque located at 6102-172 St on Wednesdays every week for six weeks from 9:00 am to 10:00 am. Sessions are facilitated by a provisional psychologist. Anyone who wants to attend is invited.
This program is for male youth (ages 12+) at Common Wealth Stadium every Sunday from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. This program provides teenagers an opportunity to network, build friendship, play different games, peer leadership talks and other activities. This is drop in program.
What makes this agency different from others?
All of its services are culturally sensitive provided by culturally competent staff or volunteer.Confidentiality of clients is maintained at all levels and especially for Essential Needs program.
It works through close relationship with the community members. Knowing community well enables the service providers to assess the needs easily and be able to provide better services.All of IFSSAs programs are designed around not only the community needs but the way community operates itself.
Islamic Family Social Services Edmonton. (2012). About Us. Retrieved from: http://www.ifssa.ca/about/