live in straw huts without roofs.
"When we go there and see what is happening it makes us more aware
of what we are about and the needs that are fulfilled," said Shaikh,
the charity's media relations director.
The crisis in the Sudan, which the United Nations estimates has
caused 50,000 deaths and the displacement of 1.2 million people since
2003, is a top priority for the Islamic Relief USA offices on
Magnolia Boulevard. The charity operates three camps in Darfur in
cooperation with the U.N.
While the U.S. has labeled actions of the Sudanese military and
allied militias against black Africans as genocide, the U.N. has only
passed a resolution calling for international inquiry into the acts
The most shocking sights he saw were the living conditions of the
people. Getting aid to them can be hampered because dirt roads in
Darfur turn to mud during the rainy season, Shaikh said.
"With emergency relief we are just trying to help people survive,"
The 14-person operation coordinates fundraising that goes to
projects in more than 30 countries. The Burbank location opened about
seven years ago after having been located in Downey, said Abdel
Salam, the information technology director.
"Burbank is a good, safe city," Salam said. "We have a good
relationship with our neighbors. We made a good choice with the
neighborhood and the people."
In the modest office divided into cubicles by partitions, Islamic
Relief gets its message out to primarily Muslim donors through
fliers, brochures and the Internet.
In the past few months, the office has put together a fundraising
dinner, and participated in conferences where a booth is staffed by
employees and other volunteers to get out information about the
charity, said May Mineissi, a fundraising coordinator
"Certain times of the year we are busier than others," Mineissi
said. "In the next month or two [with Ramadan] is our busiest."
Ahmed Shama, the organization's Web director, is responsible for
maintaining its three-year-old website with a subscriber base of
A challenge for the charity is that its donor base is primarily an
older audience and not very technologically savvy and so Islamic
Relief must assure them that using the Internet to make donations is
safe and secure, Shama said.
"A successful e-mail campaign can bring in over $35,000 in
contributions depending on whatever country we are focusing on,"
Not all the money raised by Islamic Relief goes overseas. About 15
% is spent in the Los Angeles area to assist the homeless and operate
community health clinics.
"Our work is primarily focused on Islamic countries but we
recognize there is a need here as well," Shaikh said.