By Afea Tucker
This week’s SUN Spotlight is all about life.
To kick off National Minority Donor Awareness Month and the Gift of Life Donor Program, United Muslim Masjid and Muslims Serve distributed 300 meals to community members in need during its “It’s About Life”: Community Give Back event at the Philadelphia Masjid.
“This year’s National Minority Donor Awareness Month is the first time it’s a month,” said Leslie Jean Mary, Multicultural Outreach Coordinator for the Gift of Life Donor Program. “Years before it was just a week and earlier before that it was just a day,” she continued.
“However, as we notice in today’s world, in particular with COVID-19, there are a lot of health disparities in our communities, the Black and Brown community,” she explains. “What I do at Gift of Life is provide education about what it means to be a registered organ donor,” said Mary.
Held at the start of National Minority Donor Awareness Month, the event also provided the opportunity to inform community members about the life-saving impact of organ donation.
“We’ve been working together since 2018,” said Tahir Wyatt, Director of Islamic Affairs for the United Muslim Masjid. “The Gift of Life is the only organ procurement organization in the area,” he continued.
According to Wyatt, such organizations are vital to our communities because not only are they assisting to fulfill a critical need, its process and regulations help to prevent organ ‘black markets’ that exist in other parts of the world.
“In the Muslim community and other communities, I’m sure there are a lot of misconceptions about what a person can and can’t do with their body,” said Wyatt. “There are a lot of questions about whether or not a person can or can’t be a donor based on their beliefs,” he adds.
The “It’s About Life” program provides much needed support to the people of Philadelphia as well as essential education and information about organ and tissue donation.
“We were educated by folks at the Gift of Life Donor Program, received a tour of the facility and got a look at how the process works. Then we were able to take that information and translate it to our community,” said Wyatt.
The “It’s All About Life”:Community Give Back Event was funded through an “It’s About Life Grant” awarded to the United Muslim Masjid by Donors Are Heroes, a charitable organization that supports Gift of Life’s community education and outreach programs.
Abdellah Abdul Qawi, community partner and founder of Muslims Serve, described being called to participate as a community partner for the “It’s All About Life”: Community Giveback as a “match made in heaven.”
“Gift of Life sustains life and Muslims Serve sustains life on a daily basis,” he said.
“It seemed like a no-brainer for us to get together and try to sustain life, as well as build relationships with people so that when the Gift of Life Donor Program is ready for them they already have built the relationship,” said Qawi.
“I’m looking forward to joining Gift of Life for more events and any other organizations that are interested in feeding people because there is an ongoing need to feed people and we want to fill that need,” he concluded.
According to donors1.org, nationally, there are approximately 110,000 people waiting for an organ transplant. Every ten minutes, another person is added to the list.
Gift of Life Donor Program is the non-profit, federally-designated organ procurement organization, working with 128 acute care hospitals and 15 transplant centers to serve 11.2 million people in the eastern half of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware. For the past 12 years, Gift of Life has coordinated the most life-saving organs for transplant in the United States.