The Platform

Every day throughout the daily train journey to work, I keep hearing the word “Platform”. According to the English dictionary the word platform means “a flat raised area or structure”. So what does this have to do with anything?

I discovered that my line of work involves building platforms in the UK – platforms for UK communities to interconnect together and support each other through sharing a common value system. I work in a building that is a platform for charities to develop and nurture their good work and  raise their own internal platforms in what they do best, which is to deliver goodness to their local community.

We also build platforms for individuals to further understand that working as volunteer means you are supporting a cause of which the rewards are out of this world.

The most important platform that I am currently building is my personal contribution to society, the electrifying feeling when I get out of a bed and go to work , the notion of supporting in one way or another a community, an individual, a mother, a child, grandmother within society.

Next time you board a train do remember that building a platform is a lifelong project that must be carried out every day of our life. Who knows someone somewhere might be building a platform for you?

By Abubaker Adam

November 23, 2011 at 3:04 pm Leave a comment

Cultivating an online garden

By Mohammad Shakir

OK. So the title of this blog needs a bit of explaining. I came across this article on The Guardian’s Voluntary Sector section today about building an online community. For me, the more you put into it, the more you get out it – much like a garden.

You see, in a garden, you sow the seeds and water and prune plants to ensure the health growth of flowers and crops (I know this, because my mother does it). This leads to great smells and fresh fruit and vegetables for your enjoyment. An online community is much the same.

It’s all well and good having a website, a Facebook page, Twitter account and You Tube Channel – but what is the point if you don’t use it? I include Zakat House in this as well, where we have an idea about what tools we have and what direction we need to go in, but haven’t quite given it the due care and attention that it deserves.

Much like the flowers that bloom and crops you eat, the visitors that visit your website or those that follow your social networks have to be nurtured, entertained and encouraged to actively support your cause. You need to excite them and entice them through what you can offer on your different platforms.

Regardless of what approach you take, smaller charities may rely on social networking and online tools as the cornerstone of connecting with your online community. It can be a cost effective approach and should not be sniffed at.

The irony is you are most likely reading this on your computer, phone or tablet device and have been directed here from a social network of sorts.

November 17, 2011 at 6:04 pm Leave a comment

Bringing charities in from the cold

By Mohammad Shakir

As the winter months set in and the rain and snow get ready to besiege the United Kingdom once more, we will be looking to wrap up warm, keep a hot drink with us and take that extra blanket out of storage to ensure we aren’t caught in the bitter cold.

Let’s use this scenario with charities; especially new and growing charities. Let’s say you have just received your registration from the Charity Commission – what do you do next?

Well regardless of your aims and objectives, there are certain things you will need such as a place to meet with partners and colleagues or a place where you can use an office or desk on an ad hoc basis. A place that is flexible and easy to get to. A place where everyone knows your name… (OK, that last one is not necessary, but it wouldn’t be a bad thing).

The concept of Zakat House is to support these charities by offering services that cater to their size and needs. In reality – does a charity which has one person coordinating its work really need anything more than one desk with phone and internet connection?

We have to encourage these new charities to work transparently and diligently to make sure that the money and aid that is donated to them reaches the beneficiaries for which it was raised.

Charities don’t work for profit or loss – they work to achieve something that is greater morally, spiritually and with a greater humanitarian and community spirit.

Come and join the Zakat House family.

November 15, 2011 at 3:34 pm Leave a comment

What does it mean to be a trustee?

By Mohammad Shakir

Trustee Week 2011 ended last Friday. The purpose was to highlight the role of trustees within charity sector and what it means to be a trustee and encourage more people to be a trustee.

A trustee is essentially a member of a Trust which runs a charity. It is a voluntary position where a person devotes their time and expertise in ensuring that a charity runs transparently, smoothly and with accountability. It is a position of responsibility within a charity as you are accountable for the donations that are given by the members of the public.

A trustee is entrusted with all those responsibilities. But that shouldn’t put you off. It can be an enriching experience where you get the opportunity to use skills that you may not use in your working life or at home.

The other aspect of a trusteeship is that almost anyone can become a trustee, subject to interview and background checks.

Some people are disqualified by law from acting as trustees, including anyone described in section 72(1) of the Charities Act 1993. This includes:

  • Anyone who has an unspent conviction for an offence involving deception or dishonesty;
  • Anyone who is an undischarged bankrupt;
  • Anyone who has been removed from trusteeship of a charity by the Court or the Commissioners for misconduct or mismanagement; and
  • Anyone under a disqualification order under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986.

At the end of the day holding a trusteeship of a charity is a two way street. A charity gains the benefits of your expertise and you can have a rewarding experience helping a charity and learning something new.

You don’t have to start your own charity to become a trustee; you can join an existing charity that is working in a field that you have an interest. The options are almost limitless. Give it a try, you may enjoy it.

November 8, 2011 at 10:41 am Leave a comment

Security in my humanitarian space

The Humanitarian Space - Would you like to join?

By Dr. Hany El Banna

Security means safety, stability, sustainability and productivity. While my humanitarian space means my rights, dignity, privacy and ability to develop my country.

But why are we talking about my humanitarian space? Because it is a basic human right for each and every one of us. This is my main philosophy. This is the main philosophy behind the creation of Zakat House. Financial security for small and start up charities that want to carry out humanitarian works – a home for them in the heart of London’s West End.

We did not only want an empty space for these organisations – a desk, computer or individual- but we wanted to give them an interactive humanitarian space and experience, to bridge the gap between them and other start up organisations and allow the cross fertilisation of thoughts, dreams, visions and the dynamic cohesive productivity towards common solutions.

Early this week, I saw the beginning of the fruits of this interactive, humanitarian, connective space. Abdurahman, the MCF coordinator asked me to draw a three year strategy for their organisation. I thought that this was not my job. This is either the job of a highly paid consultant costing up to £500 a day, or it is his job – because I believe that strategic thinking is not something you can only you can learn at Harvard, Oxford or Cambridge, but something that has been intrinsically embedded inside every creation including birds, fish and reptiles.

Instead of talking to Abdurahman individually we called Fatima from the International HIV Fund, Abubaker from Zakat House and Rahma from the Somali Relief and Development Forum. We all sat together around one table to discuss how they can think strategically and effectively about their goals and objectives.

Once they started their own discussion, I pulled out and I watched from behind the glass door, and felt the heat of the motivated discussion amongst them. I smelled the scent of the beautiful fragrance of the flying, argumentative humanitarian thoughts between the four organisations.

Then I saw, the bonding result of the intellectual cross fertilisation process amongst them. After two sessions each lasting 90 minutes, they managed to structure the process of strategic thinking, which was more valuable than a consultant’s colourful presentation or handout. The outcome of this interactive bonding, productive humanitarian space was:

  1. Building confidence in the hearts of the coordinators.
  2. Enabling them to think loudly and collectively for a common goal
  3. To create the teamwork not amongst members of the same organisation but amongst DIFFERENT organisations.
  4. To incite their common vision, common objectives and leadership quality.
  5. To save time that was going to be utilised by a consultant.
  6. To save the £500-£1000 that a consultant could be charging us.
  7. To cement the infrastructure of the social fabric of society empire multi storey building.

While having my lunch with another organisation in the kitchen, Fatima from IHIVF, came to make her presentation to reflect the recipe of our new cuisine which has been cooked elegantly in the Anglo, Pakistani, Indo-African kitchen of our organisations. Please come and have a bite! I can tell you it tastes mmmmmm……

October 28, 2011 at 9:34 am Leave a comment

Jobs, Hope and Cash

By Mohammad Shakir

I came across this quote late last week:

“10 years ago we had Steve Jobs, Bob Hope and Johnny Cash. Now we have no jobs, no hope, and no cash.”

The above maybe describe the stark reality of the world surrounding us today – or be a eulogy to three people who bought joy to millions through technology, entertainment and music. What do you think?

Since the economic downturn in 2008 we have seen businesses fold, homes repossessed and charities shut down. Lives and families have been shattered some have taken their lives to escape the current economic climate.

While the government has been working shore up business and home ownership levels – charities have been left with cuts to funding to projects and services that they deliver. This recent report from the NCVO highlights the current state that the charity sector is in. Recent months has seen a major decline in the numbers in the voluntary sector workforce which can have a negative effect in the long term.

In the era of the Big Society – we need to encourage the government to invest in the charity sector or much like the Big Society, it will be become history.

October 11, 2011 at 1:41 pm Leave a comment

Getting satisfaction from a smile

By Mohamed Mohamed

***Editor’s Note: This blog is being cross posted between the Muslim Charities Forum and Zakat House as the wonderful intern that wrote the below entry spent time with both organisations.***

In the two months that I have been working in the charity sector I feel proud and honoured that I have done something valuable with my time. Knowing that every blog, letter and Facebook update that I do will somehow to try to persuade someone to give from their time or money to help the less fortunate. My time that I spent with both the charity organisations I was with has been a big help to me in such a way that will benefit me in my professional career.

Three months ago before the end of the academic school year that I wanted to spend my summer doing something more different to what I am used to. I’ve always believed in the proclamation that says “charity does not decrease wealth” and how true that has been during this journey.

During my time I have been fortunate to meet people from all different walks of life, people from different background, people with different interest, people with different lifestyles but are all united in one cause, helping the people who do not have the same luxuries as we do. It’s the people you work with really shape up how office life is to be viewed. One of the main things that I’ve learnt during my time here is the importance of good communication skills and a friendly disposition. This helps you settle in to any environment quickly because it wins your work colleagues over with your character. No one ever wants to work with anyone who does not have a friendly temperament and someone who finds it difficult trying to communicate with others as it usually leads to some sort of frustration.

I am currently studying at a medical school in Romania where I have learnt how important it is to have good communication skills between doctors and patients. However this is also true in working with charity organisations as there is a potential donor which you do not want to lose. This donor could be the difference between saving someone’s life to them dying. As a result with good communication it builds rapport, good understanding and a good relationship between people.

There are many benefits in working for charities as a volunteer such as using your skills and experience no matter how little it is, it helps the community and those around you. At times you work under pressure, which is a good thing because it shows your mental strength and how you can cope in different situations.

This I feel is a valuable experience which will forever remain with me as it has taught me to be calm and carry on even when the going gets tough. Working as a volunteer helps you personally by allowing your mind to become free and think of different and new innovative ideas in ways you can help them grow.  I feel that also by doing charity work it will stand you in good stead as it will set you apart from the crowd.

Past charity work says a lot about your character, giving you a multi-dimensional personality and highlighting your good nature. Even more importantly, volunteer positions show future employers your drive and dedication. Such accomplishments demonstrate initiative, personal will, leadership skills and the ability to work hard.

I am forever thankful to those wonderful people who have helped me and given me the opportunity to volunteer, my next aim is to complete my medical studies to become a doctor and hopefully this will allow me to become more fully involved in people’s lives so I can bring them a simple smile and bring me satisfaction.

October 3, 2011 at 11:12 am Leave a comment

Getting satisfaction from a smile

By Mohamed Mohamed

Over the last 2 months, I have been working as an intern at Zakat House. I feel proud and honoured that I have done something valuable with my time. Knowing that every blog, letter and Facebook update that I have done will somehow to try to persuade someone to give from their time or money to help the less fortunate. My time that I spent has been a big help to me in such a way that will benefit me in my professional career.

Three months ago before the end of the academic school year, I made a promise that over the summer that I wouldn’t do any clinical attachments at the hospital but rather something different to what I am used to. I’ve always believed in the proclamation that says “charity does not decrease wealth” and how true that has been during this journey.

During my time here, I have been fortunate to meet people from all different walks of life, people from different backgrounds, people with different interest, people with different lifestyles but are all united in one cause – helping the people who do not have the same luxuries as we do. It’s the people you work with that really shape up how office life is to be viewed.

One of the main lessons that I’ve learnt during my time here is the importance of good communication skills and a friendly disposition. This helps you settle in to any environment quickly because it helps you win your work colleagues over with your character. No one ever wants to work with anyone who does not have a friendly temperament and someone who finds it difficult trying to communicate with others as it usually leads to frustration.

At medical school which I am currently studying in Romania always tell us how important it is to have good communication skills between doctors and patients. However this is also true in working with charity organisations as there is a potential donor which you do not want to lose. This donor could be the difference between life and death to someone in need. As a result with good communication it builds rapport, good understanding and a good relationship between people.

There are many benefits in working for charities as a volunteer such as using your skills and experience no matter how little it is, it helps the community and those around you. At times you work under pressure, which is a good thing because it shows your mental strength and how you can cope in different situations.

This I feel is a valuable experience which will forever remain with me as it has taught me to be calm and carry on even when the going gets tough. Working as a volunteer helps you personally by allowing your mind to become free and think of different and new innovative ideas in ways you can help them grow.  I feel that also by doing charity work it will stand you in good stead as it will set you apart from the crowd.

Charity work says a lot about your character, giving you a multi-dimensional personality and highlighting your good nature. Even more importantly, volunteer positions show future employers your drive and dedication. Such accomplishments demonstrate initiative, personal will, leadership skills and the ability to work hard.

I am forever thankful to those wonderful people who have helped me and given me the opportunity to volunteer, my next aim is to complete my medical studies to become a doctor and hopefully this will allow me to become more fully involved in people’s lives so I can bring them a simple smile and bring me satisfaction in doing it.

September 29, 2011 at 4:17 pm Leave a comment

Poverty starts at home

By Mohamed Mohamed

As prices from all over the world increases, we are finding it more difficult day by day to afford the things we used to be able to buy without thinking twice. Everything has increased in terms of prices from food, to living expenses, university fees, petrol and even travelling by public transport. The effect that this has on the people is immense, as it means people will no longer be able to live in peace and could potentially lead to a life of stress and worry on how one will be able to provide for his or her family.

As a Muslim I believe it is against my religion to involve any of my wealth in riba (interest). It is a command from Allah who says in the Quran “That which you give in usury for increase through the property of people will have no increase with Allah: but that which you give for charity seeking the countenance of Allah, it is these who will get a recompense multiplied.” What we can deduce from this ayah is that giving charity does not decrease wealth as Allah says it will instead increase your good deeds. Even at times like that we are in now where you have poverty on the increase as well as homeless people on the rise; it does not justify indulging in interest.

With all this it brings about fear to families about living in poverty. So what is poverty? Here is an ongoing debate about what ‘poverty’ means and how to measure it. However, most commentators agree that poverty needs to be understood in relation to typical living standards in society.

Here is a widely-used definition from Professor Peter Townsend “Individuals, families and groups in the population can be said to be in poverty when they lack the resources to obtain the types of diet, participate in the activities, and have the living conditions and amenities which are customary, or are at least widely encouraged and approved, in the societies in which they belong”.

There are a number of things which contribute to poverty. Unemployment has risen again over the past three months; low wages are also a concern, especially in single income households.

Also a contributing factor is benefits and tax credits, that are supposed to act as a safety net, are too low to protect families with children from poverty. Their value remains significantly below the poverty line.

So what are the consequences one may ask? We know it has an effect on children in terms of underperforming on the education level, poor health and also causes a lack of social interaction with the community.

When we consider we are living on the border line poverty or in poverty itself, one should not despair and always look at the people who are less fortunate than you as this is the teaching of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW). The situation of those living in the UK cannot compare with those in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia.

We must learn to be grateful, appreciate what we have, and abstain from interest as it has a greater consequence in the eyes of Allah, and most importantly give of the sake of Allah as it will protect you and your family from all calamities.

September 14, 2011 at 11:45 am Leave a comment

Reading… it helps!

By Mohammad Shakir

This year’s International Literacy Day is focusing on the link between literacy and peace.

The link between reading and peace is an interesting one. Let’s have a look shall we? Reading can lead to a greater understanding about a subject, person or initiative. I was taught from a young age that knowledge and information is the greatest currency here on this earth. It can lead to a rich life, not just materially, but personally and spiritually.

For example, say you are a plus one at a wedding at a table where you know absolutely no one. Knowledge on current affairs, sports, entertainment or philosophy (take your pick) can be the kick starter to a rich and fulfilling conversation with the person sitting next to you. So instead of being bored and looking at your face in the back of a spoon, you can engage and interact with others around you.

Gaining knowledge is an important part of life. For those of us lucky to do so, get a chance to go to school and formally learn about a variety of subjects, much of which wouldn’t be possible or fully appreciate if we can’t read. Indeed, without literacy skills, I doubt you would be reading this blog.

So this International Literacy Day how about we pick up a book and read, if we have children, read them a bedtime story or help one of the one in six adults around the world that can’t read. Reading can make a difference and those of us that can, shouldn’t take it for granted.

September 8, 2011 at 4:13 pm 2 comments

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