The Islamic Council of New South Wales (ICNSW) held its inaugural volunteers lunch on Saturday 3 September 2022 in Bankstown kicking off its Islamic Awareness Month campaign in September, mobilising communities and volunteers to address Islamophobia in the community.
Community volunteers and workers are the backbone of our efforts. They work tirelessly on a regular basis and sometimes with limited resources of their own. They have incredible stories, networks and ideas about how we move our community forward.
The event provided an opportunity for volunteers to network with each other, learn about other volunteering opportunities and why their efforts were critically important to the Muslim community.
ICNSW’s long term objective is to make volunteerism a pathway to personal and professional development.
The event proved emotional for many volunteers. Following two years of COVID-19 disruptions, a recognition event was long overdue. Over 60 letters and feedback forms were received by ICNSW over the following days requesting more opportunities to get involved.
The event provided an opportunity to showcase what ICNSW has been able to achieve through its volunteers.
The majority of the attendees were teaching ICNSW’s Islamic Special Religious Education (ISRE) programs in NSW public schools. The program currently teaches 28,000 students each week through 540 volunteers working across over 300 schools.
ICNSW relies on donations to run the ISRE programs. Without any government funding available, it largely relies on regular monthly contributions from donors and the generosity of its volunteers.
“Many people don’t know what the Islamic Council of NSW does,” Said Khaled Sukkarieh, ICNSW Chairperson. “This event highlighted the important work of our volunteers that often goes unrecognised.”
Sister Megan wrote about her experiences volunteering as an ISRE teacher and the positive impact it is having on the students and the supervising teacher:
“Firstly, thank you for organising such a successful event to celebrate, inspire and encourage the community leaders, members, existent (and future) volunteers. It was fantastic to have the opportunity to meet other volunteers and hear their experiences and listen to such speeches that moved me to tears and cemented in my heart that I am where I am meant to be.” ICNSW was represented through its volunteer board, chaplains and ISRE teachers. Volunteers from other organisations attended. Around 180 attended the event.
Since my appointment as its CEO in 2021, I have been overseeing ICNSW’s post COVID-19 recovery effort.
A volunteer recognition event was one of the first events suggested by our ISRE supervisors. They’ve got their hands full, helping communities cope with trauma caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns of Western Sydney.
The least ICNSW could do is say “Thank you!”