We’re Happy To Announce Our Kindness Grant Winner for February 2023

kindness grant winner Taha Umar

Congratulations to Taha Umar who will receive $500 to fund his kindness project.

Note:  We’re still giving two grants, the second one will be announced in March so that we can shine the spotlight on one person at a time.  We’re able to do this because we have so many wonderful people who support us and believe in our mission.  We truly appreciate all of the donations that make this possible.

About Taha Umar:

Taha Umar, (Holmdel, NJ), is founder of the non-profit Refugee Health Connection (RHC). Taha said, “As the son of two immigrant parents and an immigrant myself, I realize the difficulty of adjusting to life in another country. Language barriers, cultural barriers, and health barriers all exist for newly arrived families to a different country. That is what inspired me to start working with refugees and immigrants.”

Taha began volunteering at a local refugee resettlement agency, helping refugees successfully integrate into U.S. society. He helped sort and pack donations for setting up apartments for refugee families. He also led the English Language Learning Lab, helping refugees learn both essential English and Digital Literacy Skills.

Taha said, “I saw the refugees really gain familiarity with the topics I was teaching them, and it was heart-warming to know that my work was actually making a difference! It felt amazing to know that I was contributing to the lives of the refugees by empowering them to become self-sufficient. The refugees were already familiar with many topics I was teaching them, as they were educated in their home country. Rather, they just had difficulty with the tasks in English and in American society.”

After Taha took on an internship working with refugees, he began hearing about health problems the refugees faced and noted, it was difficult for them to navigate the healthcare system because of linguistic and cultural barriers, which was causing the refugees to have exacerbated health issues. 

For example, when a Turkish refugee had a tooth infection and was unable to access care from a dentist. This turned into a full-body infection after the tooth infection spread, causing her to be hospitalized. Stories like this and countless others regarding refugee health inspired him to start the Refugee Health Connection in August of 2022.

kindness grant winner Taha Umar

Through RHC, he created health education classes to increase health literacy, ease navigation of the healthcare system, promote healthy behaviors and give refugees the skills to advocate for themselves. 

Many refugees were missing fundamental health products that are necessities in every home including hygienic products such as toothbrushes, floss, toothpaste, and mouthwash along with medical products such as gauze, dressings, bandages, band-aids, cleansing wipes, etc. So, the RHC is putting together Care Kits to give to refugees that include many of these items.

Refugee Health Connection is a student-led organization that now has 30 members/volunteers, plus two advisory board members including a physician to make sure their health education classes are at the appropriate literacy level for refugees and are medically accurate. 

Taha talked about his parent’s struggle integrating into the US, and said, “Thankfully, they were able to overcome these difficulties by creating bonds with previously arrived immigrants that ultimately helped them integrate into society.”  

“With the recent influx of refugees to the U.S., especially Afghan and Ukrainian, it is imperative that we help them out. I’m a firm believer in health equity, in that everyone deserves an equal opportunity to be as healthy as they can be. By founding Refugee Health Connection, and starting the Care Kit Assembly Initiative, I envision a world where there is health equity for all.”

Taha brings hope and compassion to people who are struggling to adjust to the strangeness of their new country.  We’re thrilled to have Taha as part of our MKRO family and proud to award him our Kindness Grant.

We’d also like to acknowledge the many people who sent in their fantastic ideas for kindness projects.  While we wish we could give our grant to every kindness project submitted, there were so many wonderful ideas, we regret we have only two to give. We want to thank each and every one of you for submitting your ideas and hope you continue to spread kindness everywhere you go.

Is there someone who inspires you with their kindness?  Nominate them for the Matt Kurtz Kindness Award of $250.

Do you have an act-of-kindness project you want to do but need help funding it?  Submit your idea for the Matt Kurtz Kindness Grant of $500 and let us help you spread kindness.

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