Atlantic Institute celebrates local charities, Ramadan

This article was first published for Appen Media Group.

June 28, 2017

MILTON, Ga. — Community members from different walks of life gathered June 17 to celebrate Ramadan and honor organizations serving the community during the Atlantic Institute’s second annual Community Service Appreciation Iftar dinner in Milton.

The Atlantic Institute, a nonprofit organization, brings different cultures together and initiates interfaith dialogue through different events, according to program coordinator Iqra Qadri.

“We mostly host interfaith events to bring different faiths together,” Qadri said. “We really just spread the conversation around between people who don’t normally socialize.”

The Atlantic Institute first began its Community Service Appreciation Iftar dinner last year when members of the institute wanted to do something during Ramadan. They decided to honor different organizations that accomplish missions the institute believes in.

“We had the family Iftar program, where people sign up and we place them with host families to experience an Iftar dinner, but we wanted to do one for the community,” Qadri said.

During this year’s dinner, Kemal Budak, a volunteer with the Atlantic Institute, gave a brief presentation highlighting how and why Muslims celebrate Ramadan. He explained that in the Muslim holy book, the Quran, God said that fasting is obligatory for Muslims.

“Ramadan is the blessed month of Muslims,” Budak said. “This is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, and it’s the most blessed month of the year.”

The Atlantic Institute presented the awards to two nonprofits, drawchange and the Glitter of Hope Foundation. Qadri said the institute chose the two organizations via a nomination committee made up of nonprofits connected to the Atlantic Institute.

drawchange is an organization that brings art into the lives of impoverished children around the world. It provides art supplies to homeless children and does art therapy-based programming to help them visualize a break to their cycle of poverty. It has served over 15,000 children in Atlanta itself, according to drawchange CEO and founder Jennie Lobato.

“We help [children] create projects that help them realize that they can create beauty in their lives,” Lobato said. “We do a lot of self-esteem boosting, empowerment, things like that. We have the same program in Ethiopia and Costa Rica as well.”

The second award was presented to the Glitter of Hope Foundation, which provides basic needs, such as food, shelter and clothing, to orphan children from Africa and Asia who seek refuge in the United States. Representatives from the Glitter of Hope gave a presentation about the foundation and refugees during the dinner.

Budak then invited Mohamed Shafie Ameermia, a commissioner for the South African Human Rights Commission, to speak. Ameermia outlined the South African Human Rights Commission’s work in addressing poverty, homelessness and refugees in South Africa. The commission was born out of Apartheid, in an effort to not allow history to be repeated.

Ameermia called on the community to strive toward placing importance on human rights.

“One of the things I think we need to understand is the importance of a business community that can play a fundamental role in making things happen for organizations that were presented with this award, because we think human rights is good for business, and we need to pass that on,” Ameermia said. “Every human being has the right to dignity.”

After Ameermia’s concluding remarks, the dinner’s attendees broke their fast and mingled as some guests performed their evening prayer at the nearby masjid.

Qadri said she was happy the event drew some people who she did not expect to attend, and she hoped the dinner facilitated dialogue between people of different faiths.

“I found it pretty positive,” Qadri said. “The organizations who won were really excited to meet other people they could work with to further their mission.”

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