Students crowded into the University of Florida Hilton Conference Center in order to help benefit the Helping Hand for Relief and Development’s Orphan Support Program last Friday.
According to their website, Helping Hand USA is a global humanitarian relief and development organization that strives to provide immediate response in disasters, and effective programs in places of suffering.
“Helping Hand is a nonprofit organization that works in over 55 countries overseas,” said Ahmed Youssef, 23-year-old assistant district manager. “We have various projects starting from helping people with disabilities, digging wells and educating children in third world countries.”
Although HHRD aligns itself with Islamic ideals, it serves individuals and communities regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, class, location, religion, color, cultural diversity or social background. However, the organization does have a special focus on countries where the majority of the population lives below the poverty line.
“Seeing how dedicated this charity is was truly remarkable,” said 19-year-old Snehitha Kethireddy. “Just attending one of their events made me want to get involved myself.”
According to Youssef, Helping Hand was recognized as one of the top 10 most efficient non-profit organizations in the United States.
“Our biggest project is the orphan sponsorship program, which is only $365 and you can sponsor an orphan for an entire year,” Youssef said.
The event, Comedy for a Worthwhile Cause, was put on in order to fundraise for Syrian orphans that were recently admitted into the office in Jordan. Due to the situation in Syria, they had nowhere to return.
“I attended the event because it seemed like a fun and informative event to go to,” said Aruba Fatmi, a 19-year-old UF student. “It was for a good cause, the orphans in Syria, and I wanted to definitely give back as well as listen to what the speakers had to say — and of course hear the comedians.”
Over 220 students from UF and Santa Fe as well as residents of Gainesville and Ocala attended the event, surpassing the conference center’s capacity.
“The event was very successful,” Youssef said. “The room’s maximum capacity was 200, we had tables and chairs for 170 and 220 showed. The community’s response was awesome, our volunteers did a great job helping and managing the crowd.”
The event featured Muslim comedians, Azhar Usman and Mohammed Amer. Motivational speaker Dr. Altaf Husain was also present at the event.
“The speakers did a really good job of addressing the conflict the children in Syria are facing and how they really need help in hopes of a brighter future,” Fatmi said.
Tickets were $10 to attend the event, including dinner.
“The goal was to raise enough money for 200 orphans,” Youssef said. “We ended up with more than 220 orphans which is around $80,300.”
Youssef believes that without the community effort and collaboration the event would not have been possible.
“The best part of the night for me was when the donations began and people started to raise their hands to donate whatever they could,” Fatmi said. “It was nice seeing our community work together to give back.”