A 24 year old Pakistani, Muslim American traveled with his team to Washington D.C. on Tuesday. Representing his relief organization with fellow staff alongside 15 other Muslim social service organizations working on the ground nationwide, he was ushered into a meeting with the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Dedicated to humanitarian aid, he serves as the Disaster Response Team Regional Coordinator at Islamic Relief USA.
[Kharal with the Islamic Relief USA team after a meeting in the White House with the Office of Faith based and Neighborhood Partnerships.]
Faran Kharal, 24, was born and raised in Pakistan until arriving to the United States in 2004. Since then he has lived in Los Angeles with his family. He is a Political Science graduate from University of California, Riverside.
He is also a professional calligraphy artist of four years since he began under the mentorship of his friend, Mohammad Sadiq, from the United Kingdom.
“When I first started, I was awful,” said Kharal. “However I kept on practicing.” Today, Kharal’s pieces, shipped to countries around the world, are flawless, evident of long hours spent to ensure perfection. His art typifies his patience, hard work and dedication.
Such traits embody his work at Islamic Relief USA, where he began at their Fund Development department after graduating in 2014. Part of his work entailed traveling Southern California, Arizona, Colorado, Utah and Nevada to visit different communities and raise awareness and funds for international humanitarian causes. In February, he traveled to Michigan where he participated in IRUSA’s water distribution efforts to the residents of Flint, where the water supply had been poisoned by dangerous levels of lead.
[Kharal passes out cases of water to volunteers at a food pantry in Flint, Michigan.]
“It is a privilege to work at an organization that has given me the ability to travel across the U.S., to not only visit 2016’s worst disaster zones but to also actively seek ways to help those that were affected,” said Kharal, who spoke to Youth Matters host Faraj Yousouf about his experience on the field helping out with the Flint water crisis.
[Kharal stands next to a team of volunteers in Flint, Michigan after coming back from a water delivery.]
The first deployment occurred within a week of his new position: he was sent to Santa Clarita County, where 52 square miles had been devastated by the Sand Fires that month. Along with other organizations, he worked to provide direct financial assistance to residents whose homes had been damaged by the fire with clients who he says could never have imagined receiving help from an Islamic organization.
[Kharal assesses the damage at a home burnt down during the Sand Fires.]
“When people see our team in different cities, wearing the blue vests with the Islamic Relief USA logo, I am sure that we are changing hearts and minds,” said Faran. “People understand that we are there to serve them and genuinely care for their wellbeing.”
On Aug. 12, Louisiana suffered prolonged rainfall in the southern parts of the state, resulting in catastrophic flooding that submerged thousands of houses and businesses. Federal agencies declared this to be the worst U.S. natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy in 2012. IRUSA’s Disaster Response Team deployed immediately and began working with the American Red Cross and canvassed neighborhoods in affected areas, conducting disaster assessments. IRUSA’s team comprised of three DRT coordinators and ten volunteers completed 11,000 disaster assessments within two weeks and provided more than $34,000 in financial assistance to the undocumented immigrant community of Baton Rouge.
Then Hurricane Matthew hit, carving a path of destruction along the southeastern United States seaboard, wreaking billions of dollars in damage and taking 49 lives. Faran once again flew out with his team, initially to Orlando, Florida where the Hurricane first made landfall, then traveled north to North Carolina, where most of the destruction took place. In a Disaster Response Team video, Kharal updated the community about IRUSA’s work as they shifted gears to address North Carolina in the hurricane’s aftermath and asked for their prayers.
[Kharal looks off in the distance after surveying submerged houses and cars in the city of Lumberton.]
Near the town of Lumberton, North Carolina, he and a team of 10 national volunteers worked alongside the American Red Cross in the Purnell Swett High School, where 800 residents were given shelter.
“Even though we go in with small teams of no more than a dozen volunteers, we always make a huge impact,” said Kharal. “I imagine a day where we go into a disaster zone with a thousand trained volunteers, that would be absolutely amazing.”
“I am grateful to be a part of the Muslim American Society Greater Los Angeles chapter, which has been instrumental in shaping my outlook as a lifelong Islamic worker,” said Kharal.
“My brothers and sisters in MAS and Dr. Imad Bayoun especially, gave me a foundation of knowledge and understanding that continues to motivate me to work my hardest. Right now Allah Aza wa jal, has blessed me with energy and good health, Alhumdulillah. Nothing is guaranteed for tomorrow, I want to do all that I can while I still have the strength. I ask that Allah Aza wa Jal makes me and all those work for his sake, sincere.”