Posted by Yasmin Hussein on May 11, 2016 in Blog

Growing up as an Arab American in South Florida, my parents focused on ensuring an awareness of how blessed we were. The values of community service and giving back to my community were instilled at a young age. My mother always taught my sister and I that giving back to those in need comes first because in reality we had all that we needed. My mother also taught us that whatever good we do and whatever vibes we put out into the world, are returned tenfold.
 
These values of giving back and generosity to others, taught to me by my mother, are truly engrained in Arab culture. Visit any Arab American home and you will find spreads of the most delicious food, good tea and a warm welcome reminiscent of your own home. So it’s not surprising that a day where thousands of Arab Americans around the country gather to give back to their communities comes natural.
 
The National Arab American Service Day was established in 2004 by the National Network of Arab American Communities (NNAAC). Many organizations, including the organization I work for, the Arab American Institute take part each year. This initiative encourages Arab American communities to “give back through service, fostering a culture of leadership, community engagement and volunteerism.” With more than 2,000 volunteers, there are around 18 to 20 projects organized in cities across the county.
 
Though this is an organized day, Arab Americans give back to their country every day. Whether through their mosques or churches or their general community centers, the young and old help feed the homeless, volunteer at their schools, take part in street cleanups and organize health fairs.  
 
I recently volunteered at the National Women’s Memorial at Arlington Cemetery. As a certified makeup artist, I gave makeovers to female veterans who were transitioning from the military to civilian life. In the thirty or so minutes I took to “glam up” these amazing women, I learned so much from each and every one of them. From their stories of courage to their true desire to help those around them. It is in that moment I realized that in giving back to these women, I was the one who was truly gaining and benefiting from this opportunity. After all, this is the true essence of community service.

To RSVP for our Arab American Service Day in Washington, DC, please click here.

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