Kalihi-Waena Elementary students received more than 250 new pairs of shoes from Hawaii’s Muslim community and the FBI’s citizen academy yesterday.
For many at the school, it was their first pair of sneakers.
“When those kids walked into the cafeteria and saw 250 pairs of shoes sitting on the tables, their faces lit up like it was Christmas morning,” said FBI Special Agent Tom Simon.
The Muslim Association of Hawaii and the Federal Law Enforcement Foundation, the alumni group of the FBI’s citizen academy, began their Islam Day fundraising project in September. Since then Hawaii’s Muslim community has raised more than $15,000 — enough to get them halfway to their goal of 500 pairs of closed-toe athletic shoes.
“As Muslims we must give to those in need,” said Hakim Ouansafi, who is both chairman of the Muslim Association of Hawaii and a board member of the Federal Law Enforcement Foundation.
Hawaii began recognizing Sept. 24 as Islam Day in 2009, and each year the Muslim association has undertaken a new fundraising project. Money was raised last year for the Hawaii Foodbank, and this year the organization decided to work with the FBI’s community outreach program to identify an area of need.
Simon said Kalihi-Waena Elementary school was chosen with input from FBI community outreach because of its location near public housing.
HOW TO DONATE
Checks labeled “Islam Day Shoes Drive” can be mailed to:
Muslim Association of Hawaii
“These are economically disadvantaged children who really need our help,” Simon said. “We identified a need in our community and decided to take direct action to make things better.”
It’s a partnership that officials say has paid off for both law enforcement officials and Hawaii’s Muslims.
“Whenever the Muslim Association of Hawaii is interested in having a co-sponsor for a community outreach program, we’re going to be all over that,” Simon said. “We like being close to them, we like being associated with them and they’re just very engaged members of the community.”
Once the association meets its fundraising goal, its next effort in September will likely be centered around disaster relief for the victims of this month’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
“It’s one of our pillars,” Ouansafi said. “As Muslims, as Hawaiians and as Americans, we must give back to our ohana.”