Speaking on Homelessness at Northern Virginia Mosque – By Andrea Barron, NCH Volunteer
Since 1999, the Faces of Homelessness Speakers Bureau has made over 3,000 presentations throughout the United States. It has held hundreds of events at synagogues, churches, public and private schools and universities, but never at a mosque. This was about to change. On September 13, Dana Woolfolk and Candi Darley became the first NCH speakers to visit a mosque.
Dana and Candi were invited to speak at Dar al-Hijrah in Falls Church, Virginia by Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, the mosque’s Outreach Director. September 13 was a special day in Virginia – it was designated as a “Day to Serve” by the mayor of Washington DC and the Governors of Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia. In Northern Virginia, volunteers from religious communities collected food donations for the food pantries at Dar al-Hijrah and the Annandale Christian Community for Action (ACCA).
Candi shared her experiences with “Day to Serve” volunteers at the mosque, and with the Latina women waiting to register for the food pantry. Originally from Panama, Candi had not spoken publicly in Spanish for years. But she made such an impression on the Latina women, mostly from El Salvador, that some of them discussed inviting her to speak about homelessness at their churches.
Dana addressed over 150 Muslims, immediately following prayer services. He spoke movingly about how he had once been addicted to drugs and alcohol and lived on the streets for three years. But he overcame his addiction and now works as a therapist and Clinical Recovery Coach and has become one of the leading advocates on homelessness in Virginia.
“I was honored to be the first representative from the National Coalition for the Homeless at a mosque,” said Dana. Everyone at Dar al-Hijrah treated me like a brother and made me feel welcome. Imam Johari can be a strong ally for us to end homelessness in Northern Virginia.”
“The tenets of Islam underscore the importance of caring for the miskeen (poor in Arabic),” said Imam Johari. “So it is a fulfillment of our faith to care for the homeless and the hungry. Often times people do not see the face of what hunger and homelessness look like—Dana showed us that people who are now or used be homeless are just like us.”
The Imam said he hopes to work with the National Coalition on a “Day of Action about Homelessness” in January 2015, when Muslims celebrate the birth of the prophet Mohammed. Thanks to Candi and Dana, NCH is now on its way to building a relationship with the Muslim community of Northern Virginia.