Feature Friday: #BeTheChange – Aamina Ali

Homelessness is an often stigmatized issue. People feel uncomfortable with giving money to homeless people on the streets because they are worried that they are going to use them for drugs or alcohol, or that they are criminals, sociopaths, evil, lazy, etc. However, a majority of homeless people have been through some of the most unfortunate circumstances. We do not get to choose the family we are born into, the social environment that we grow up in, or how many resources we have to medical care, or whether we have access to good education. People do not choose to lose their jobs, to have their homes burnt down, or to have a family member suffer from a terminal disease and pay for their recovery. Victims of violence or sexual abuse may flee their homes in fear and being homeless may be worth escaping that negativity and trauma. Anyone can become homeless at any time.

If we can all come together to provide some support, love, and encouragement, (like in the form of care packages), we can try to restore some faith in humanity. More importantly, even if you are unable to volunteer or give to the cause, the least you can do is stop blaming the homeless. More than money or sympathy, homeless people just want others to know that they are human. #BeTheChange

With all of that said, I am extremely happy to have a friend taking an initiative to help the homeless in Detroit: Aamina Ali! Show her #BeTheChange project some support here!! Please share with your friends and family; also if you are interested in volunteering, comment below and I can add you to our list! – Note from the editor (Zuni)

Aamina Ali graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration. With a background in strategic development, she strives to solve everyday problems in both the business world and the real world through actionable insights. She is passionate about connecting people with resources, and harbors a strong entrepreneurial and creative approach to problem solving. Aamina is also on the executive board of Narratives of Pain, a nonprofit focused on mental health and healing. In her free time she enjoys playing piano, traveling, and reading. With this project, Aamina hopes to inspire people to #BeTheChange by taking small steps within your power and within your own backyard to influence change. Click here to support the cause!

Some words from Aamina about #BeTheChange:

Every winter morning, I begrudgingly drag myself out of the warmth and comfort of my bed, and immediately proceed to find all the ways I can continue staying warm and comfortable. The day starts with a nice hot shower, followed by a comfortable sweater and steaming cup of coffee. As I brace myself to step into the blistering cold winter wind, I protect my face with a scarf, and bundled up in my winter gear, proceed to get into my car and turn the heat on full blast. I devour my morning bagel as I make my way down Lafayette towards I-75. Feeling grateful for the day, I am quickly brought back to a different reality.

Every winter morning, a man sits on an empty crate on the side of the road. “Homeless – Anything Helps” reads the sign he holds, written half-heartedly on a torn piece of cardboard. Clothes worn and tattered, he looks up hopefully at each passing car, only to be followed by a look of disappointment as his unspoken pleas for help go unnoticed. This man does not get to start his day in a warm and comfortable bed. Instead, he sleeps on an old blanket behind a trash can off the side of a major highway. He cannot take a nice hot shower, nor can he choose to cloth himself in comfortable sweaters. There are no steaming cups of coffee in his world, no such thing as protection against the bitter winter cold, no car that he can turn the heat on full blast. He cannot even enjoy a simple morning bagel. Unfortunately, this man is not alone in his reality, but just one of several thousand Detroiters living their lives on the streets.

The Facts
As of 2016, there were 564,708 people reported living on the streets of America. In Detroit, 16,040 people were reported actively seeking housing or food from shelters and soup kitchens. The number of people physically counted in Detroit’s Annual Homelessness Count in 2017 was 2,078. Of that number, 220 remained unsheltered or sleeping on the streets as of January 2017.

The idea behind #BeTheChange is that impact starts in our own backyards, with ourselves. As much as I wish I could house, cloth, employ, and feed every homeless person on the planet, I simply do not have the resources, power, or means to do that. What I can do, however, is focus on the quality of my actions over the quantity of them. There are several ways to enact high-impact change, such as running for office, becoming an educator, or starting an organization devoted to solving the root cause of a social issue. But what about all the people who don’t run for office, don’t become educators, or don’t start their own businesses? What about all the people who want to create an impact in a way that is tangible yet still within their own power to implement?

The Care Kit
Care Kits are packages with essential items for survival, such as food, water, personal hygiene products, and clothing. While these kits won’t last forever, they do provide some lasting comfort for the person receiving them. These particular Care Kits will also include a list of resources, including addresses and phone numbers of homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and staffing agencies in Detroit.

With an estimated 200 Detroiters currently reported living in the streets, what if we could reach just 50% of them? That’s 100 Care Kits, which is doable with the right amount of funding and execution. Assuming each care kit costs $25 per kit, the fundraising target needed to make this vision happen is $2,500.  These funds would cover all expenses related to creating and distributing the Care Kits throughout the City of Detroit.

Each Care Kit will contain the following the items:

  • Winter gloves
  • Winter hat
  • Winter scarf
  • Socks
  • Water Bottle
  • Chicken Salad with Crackers Kit
  • Goldfish Crackers
  • Nature Valley Granola Bars
  • Nutri-grain Bars
  • Raisins
  • Fruit Snacks
  • PB&J Sandwich
  • First Aid Kits
  • 2-in-1 Shampoo/Conditioner
  • Soap
  • Chap Stick
  • Comb
  • Deodorant
  • Mouthwash
  • Nail File
  • Razor
  • Tissues
  • Toothbrush (with case)
  • Toothpaste
  • Washcloth
  • Wet Wipes
  • Handwritten Note
  • Resource Sheet
  • Blankets
  • Hand warmers
  • Lotion

The Strategy
In order to provide 100 Care Kits to the homeless population of Detroit, there are three basic tasks required: fundraising, kit creation, and distribution.

  • Fundraising (November 15, 2017 – December 15, 2017)
    To reach the fundraising goal of $2,500, the campaign will be circulated among social media networks, personal and professional networks, and local networks in Detroit. With an average contribution amount of $25 per person, 100 donors would be needed to hit this goal. Even if the average person contributed as little as $10, only 250 donors would be needed. With the prevalence of social media today, I believe we can easily raise $2,500 provided we work together to spread the word and donate however much is in our means.
  • Kit Creation (December 17, 2017)
    Once the funds have been raised, the next step will be to purchase the supplies and create kits. To reduce per unit costs, items will be purchased in bulk from online retailers, or from low-cost retailers such as the Dollar Store. Kit creation will rely on volunteer labor from community members.
  • Distribution (December 25, 2017)
    On Christmas Day, volunteers will team up to distribute the Care Kits in various parts of the city. The City will be mapped into separate neighborhoods, with a team devoted to distributing a portion of the kits in each neighborhood.

The Ask
Making one Care Kit may not take a lot of time, money, or resources. However, making 100 and intentionally distributing them throughout the city takes much more investment in both time and effort. If you are interested in an opportunity to address homelessness in the City of Detroit in a tangible way, here’s how you can help:

  • Donate! Without the necessary funds, these kits cannot be completed! One donation of $25 would go towards providing a person in need with food, water, clothing, and personal hygiene essentials. Receiving a Care Kit is also an act of warmth and love – it is a way to tell these folks that somebody out there cares about them.
  • Volunteer! If you are interested in helping to prepare these kits or distribute them on Christmas, please comment below or reach out to ali93@gmail.comto find out how you can get involved.
  • Spread The Word! Crowdfunding utilizes the power of social networks as a catalyst for change. Even if you are unable to donate or volunteer, simply spreading the word by sharing this link on social media will help!

There are a lot of problems waiting to be fixed in the world, and while we cannot hope to solve any of them individually, together, we can #BeTheChange.

For more information on how to get involved, please contact Aamina Ali at aamina.ali93@gmail.com

If you are interested in submitted your own piece for Feature Friday fill out this form!

Posted by

Hi, I'm the founder of The PhDream. I'm a second year doctoral student who wasn't satisfied with just sitting behind a desk and writing papers. While my research may have an indirect impact, I wanted to engage more directly with the community and provide a platform to discuss neglected and sensitive issues. Along with that, I try to stay sane in my program by stress baking, glamming up even when I'm down, and sharing my dad-joke captions on the gram -- if only that creativity could translate into my research... Anyways, I'm always looking for contributors, collaborations, and people to eat my zelicious creations, so don't hesitate to reach out or follow me @ZuniJilani :)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s