by Haris Yar Khan - Jalya Writer
Nesrine Merhi Tarrabain is the founder of Gathering Angels a non-profit for young girls, which is an Islamic and philanthropic organization and is a founding member of the St. Albert Muslim Association, a local activist, and fundraiser who raised over $76,000 in water wells for Penny Appeal Canada in 2022.
Tell us about yourself.
I was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon; I migrated to Canada with my family during high school. At first, it was a bit of a challenge to learn a new language and adapt to a new country, culture, and pretty much a new way of life. Three years after we moved to Canada, I lost my mom (Allah yerhama) to breast cancer, and the world pretty much went black for me. I enrolled in hair school and worked in that field for four years. Later I got married and had four exceptional children; I always volunteered in their schools as I see it’s important for parents and teachers to stay connected.
Why did you decide to become active in the community?
In 2015, there was a threat on West Edmonton Mall,
and unfortunately, again, Islam and Muslims were being blamed, so a group of us decided to do something about it. So, we gathered at a friend's house and attached a message and a Hadith on paper to 500 long white-stem roses. And next day, we stood on the streets of downtown Edmonton and gave them out to passers. It was -27 that day, and I will never forget it, but the warmth we received from people made the cold pain disappear. Alhamdulillah, I knew then that my joy and purpose in life was serving the umma and protecting our religion. Since then, I have picked up volunteering and any humanitarian opportunity came my way. I volunteered at IFSAA many times when Syrian refugees needed help in Edmonton. I ran a campaign for Lebanon and collaborated with people locally and abroad to send a container filled with necessities to our people in Lebanon.
How was the Gathering Angels Founded?
I was looking for something beneficial and fun for my girls to enrol in, something to enjoy and not worry about homework. We all know how much kids hate weekend school or any extra curriculum we enrol them in, and I myself enjoy attending halaqas, so that was the field I was looking for, for my girls. A friend encouraged me to start something small for our own girls, and subhan’Allah, from 9 girls, we instantly grew to be a large group. I wanted to cater for their age, information and prophet stories and mini halaqa sessions for them to enjoy and take home some information.
So in December 2016, I founded a group called The Gathering Angels, and with the blessing of Allah, it’s still running successfully. It’s a group for young girls; we meet once a week and discuss various topics, from life issues to religion; we start by reading two pages of the Quran first, then proceed with the lesson. We also do activity nights such as painting and crafts; I also get them guest speakers; we’ve had a therapist come talk to the girls about a few scenarios, we’ve had a few imams that came and given us important lessons, I’ve had many other fantastic guest speakers who have helped these girls in many ways.
I have a few other speakers lined up for them, and one of them is an RCMP officer who will come and discuss cyberbullying. This group has often been featured on local news channels, such as CTV and Global.
Our group makes a yearly trip to Boyle Street with supplies and food. These girls chip in money, and I buy winter supplies, such as mittens, hats, scarves, sockets, and hygiene products, and we are blessed to have local dentists that provide a dental care kit to add to our care packages that we give out. On our visit day to Boyle Street, we cook and package all meals individually and distribute them inside and onto the streets. Before we leave, we give out about 200 care packages that we have put together.
The Gathering Angels have also helped IFSAA at the food bank to help put together hundreds of food hampers for those in need. The girls also helped IFSAA and Nisa homes raise money at their own events by selling their crafts at a table that evening and raising over 1000$ for each event, and 100% of proceeds went to the events. The Group also recently helped Al-Rashid mosque with winter preparation for the community members. I am incredibly proud of this group, ma’shaa’Allah I want to see them excel in life and be leaders in the future.
I believe the youth is our future, and we must make sure we pave the path and support them; this world is already hard on them; let’s all be leaders and create better leaders.
Can you tell us about your involvement with the Mosque in St Albert?
In November/December 2019, With the mercy and blessings of Allah, he honoured My family alongside five other families to open the first masjid in St Albert.
Can you tell us about your experience with Penny Appeal?
I started volunteering with Penny Appeal Canada when we did the food hamper distribution at masjid Fatima an annual three-year program food hamper distribution with the masjid association of St Albert (MASA). We also did back-to-school backpack distribution to many schools in Edmonton; we did a winter coat drive with United Way Alberta capital region.
In Ramadan 2022, I ran a campaign for Penny Appeal Canada; I wanted to take on a project about water wells. So, I decided to sell my baked good, and 100% profit went to building wells for countries in need. The goal was ten wells, but with Allah’s blessing and Barakah, and the amazing support of our community, we raised enough money for 67 wells in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Alhamdulillah that put me on the top in all of Canada as a volunteer/influencer to raise that amount of money. But to me, it wasn’t about the money or the award; it was about how many people we could provide clean water to.
When your intention is pure towards the work you do, and your goal is serving the Umma, Allah swt puts Baraka in it and makes the journey seems effortless.
January 2023, I was granted a field visit to Pakistan by Penny Appeal Canada,
Five of us ladies headed to do some humanitarian work in the country. We visited hospitals and villages that were destroyed by the flood, distributed food packages and visited schools and distributed winter kits to orphans. We then visited sites where Penne Appeal finished some projects; when we toured the hospital and saw the labour and delivery ward, I stood there in complete shock at the conditions of these hospitals. I knew then that we had so much work to do…. All of us, together, we have to help those in need.
Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said, “A man’s true wealth is the good he does in this world.”. We need to look at ourselves and be able to answer Allah subbana watta Allah when he asks, “What did you do to help my servant.” We don’t have to fly across the country to help, but we also cannot stay put. We are being tested with our wealth, time and knowledge. We will be asked how we used them.
Are there any other projects you would like to tell us about?
March 2023, just before this Ramadan, the Muslim Association of St Albert, Penny Appeal Canada and The Action for Healthy Communities collaborated and put together 100 food hampers for the new Afghan refugees. I wanted to run a small campaign to let my community gain some rewards as well, and in less than 12 hours, we raised 7 thousand dollars that went towards the food hampers. Alhamdulillah, Allah swt puts baraka and blessing in the work we do with pure intentions. I’m also the director of the fundraising committee at our school in St Albert, and in 2020 after many back-and-forth negotiations, I brought halal hot dogs to be served at our St. Albert public school for the lunch program.
Finally, I was recently asked to run a women-only fundraiser event for the collaboration between CPCA and ISLAMIC RELIEF and alhamdella; we collected close to 56k in 15 minutes. The money will go to the Advanced education program for the children in Palestine.
We are in this dunia for a very short time, and Allah swt has blessed us with so much,
we will be questioned about them all, and we will be asked how we used our money, knowledge, time and more, so let’s use them wisely.
The Umma needs our help; we have a lot to do, there is so much that needs to be done, wallah, and we need to unite more to help those in need.
If I may add a reminder for myself before anyone: “If you are able to help someone, be grateful because Allah is answering that person’s prayer through you”,
I call it an honour and love from Allah swt to use us in ways he loves most.
That is - to serve others.