– Mohamed Aljibaly
VIC Community Engagement & Fundraising Coordinator, Islamic Relief Australia
It’s been 12 weeks since the second wave of COVID-19 hit Melbourne and strict social distancing and lockdown restrictions were reimposed on us. As one of the longest and strictest lockdowns in the world, it has been particularly tough to continue a normal routine and stay positive. As the only Victorian Community Engagement and Fundraising Coordinator for Islamic Relief Australia, the nature of my work has changed substantially. Working from home has become the new normal, bringing with it pros and cons. Some of the pros include: not having to dress formally unless I have a video meeting, and not needing to drive long distances to meet people. On the other hand, face-to-face interaction is necessary in building relationships and showcasing the work we do. The closure of mosques and businesses has made it harder for me to meet community members, participate in events (all of which have been cancelled) and rally support for our work. Instead of going to visit donors in person and having face-to-face meetings, I now resort to phone calls, emails or online meetings.
My reliance on social media has also increased to keep connected with friends, colleagues and the community. It is also tool for me to keep people informed on the current humanitarian situation: the devastating impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable communities globally; natural disasters – like flooding in Sudan – uprooting people from their homes and disrupting lives; explosions in Beirut, crippling the people of Lebanon, who are already suffering with the ongoing economic crisis.
With the current state of the world, I’m always reminding myself: ‘if COVID-19 is hard on us, it is definitely harder on these people who are already vulnerable or in need’. This is what motivates me to keep going and doing everything that is needed to continue my work in lockdown. I’m continuing to fundraise – albeit in a new format. Traditional fundraisers have now turned into online ones – in Melbourne we recently hosted a fundraising event on WhatsApp for Islamic Relief’s Sudan Flood Appeal, and Alhamdulillah the response so far, has been great!
In terms of work, like most people, it has been quite a challenge for me to work in the same space (at home) as my three young children – especially when they’re attending online Zoom classes, while I’m trying to call donors! But, Alhamdulillah, I’m blessed that my house includes a separate bungalow, where I have set up a home office away from all the distractions. My wife has also been a great support, looking after the children and keeping them away from me while I work (but, they still manage to distract me sometimes!).
Overall, this whole crisis is a reminder that everything in life is subject to change and all things are temporary. Alhamdulillah, in the midst of this crisis, we have been able to continue our life-changing work to help people in need. This is only possible thanks to Allah – the Almighty, our donors and technology – which has facilitated our work and provided donors with various secure and rapid options to continue giving.
Although we are counting the days to return back to normal operations, we will continue to help people however we can. For instance, our support to those affected by COVID-19 all over Victoria still continues. We have obtained relevant work permits that allow us to distribute essentials to people in need – wherever they are.