November 15, 2018

Volunteer Partner Spotlight: Zaman International

volunteer sorts donations

Volunteers from United Way partner DTE Energy helped to prep food and sort donations at Zaman International in October.

How we spend our time says a lot about what’s important to us—from visits with friends and family to hours spent on a project or hobby. It’s a concept that’s integral to the mission of Zaman International. The United Way partner—whose name translates to “time” in Arabic, Hebrew and Turkish—encourages others to examine how they can best utilize their time to help their community, like as a volunteer.

For Zaman founder Najah Bazzy, the importance of time was clear when she founded the Inkster-based organization in 1996. 

Najah, a nurse specialist, was caring for the terminally ill newborn of a family that had recently immigrated to the United States. On a visit to the family’s home, she was shocked by their living conditions. They had no refrigerator, and their sick infant slept in a bed made from a laundry basket stacked with towels. 

Najah knew she had to do something to help improve their situation and allow them to focus on the time they had left with their child. She recruited people to donate household items, food and clothing to help the family. 

The realization that so many families were in need of help drove her to form Zaman International – Hope for Humanity. 

Twenty-two years later, the organization is committed to addressing basic needs and empowering marginalized women and children through relief and development programs. 

Volunteers are key to this mission, and know they’re making a tangible impact on families. 

“It’s important for staff, donors and volunteers to have hope,” said Abigail DeMars, Zaman’s volunteer coordinator. “The need can be overwhelming so it’s easy to despair and get discouraged. Knowing that you can give back in concrete, tangible ways helps to inspire hope.”

A common mission

Zaman International and United Way work together to serve Southeastern Michigan. From health education to occupational training, the two organizations align in a variety of ways. 

“We work with our partners to improve individual lives and the health of the communities we serve,”says Eric Davis, United Way’s Vice President of Basic Needs, Health, & Outreach. “Zaman’s commitment to lifting up families in need aligns closely with United Way’s mission.” 

United Way leverages our corporate and community partnerships to recruit volunteers for Zaman International. In addition, our volunteer portal provides an easy way for Zaman to find individuals who want to help their cause. 

Zaman’s Hope for Humanity Center in Inkster is also home to a Meet Up and Eat Up meal site serving free meals to children during the summer months. Their commitment to health also spans further. Zaman introduces children and families to new foods in their on-site garden and family cooking experiences in their Culinary Arts Training Center. 

In the summer of 2018, Zaman’s chef Daniella Abel also joined us at our Meet Up and Eat Up Community Block Party in Inkster to teach a new recipe to attendees.

volunteer chops vegetables

Ron Gillmore, who manages the Digital Operations team at DTE Energy, volunteers in the kitchen at Zaman International in October.

Using skills for good

In October, United Way partnered with DTE Energy to bring a group of employees to Zaman to volunteer with projects like kitchen prep and sorting donations. 

Ron Gillmore, who manages DTE’s Digital Operations team, put his chopping skills to work, dicing jalapeños for the center’s lunch program. When he signed up to volunteer he admits that’s not quite how he imagined he’d spend his time. 

“It’s actually better,” Ron said. “I’m pretty good in the kitchen so it’s fun to be able to put that skill to use.” 

One team of volunteers helped sort coats from a recent winter clothing drive and others put the center’s garden to bed for the winter – removing the last of the tomatoes and peppers, digging up plants and turning the soil.  

Christina Oswald, who also works on DTE’s Digital Operations team, used her time to help fix a printer problem. “I’m glad I could use a skill that I have,” she said.

woman learns computer skills

DTE Energy employee Christina Oswald helps fix a printer problem at Zaman International, putting her skills to use as a volunteer.

Inspiring hope

Opened in 2016, the Hope for Humanity Center offers many options to volunteer. The 40,500 square-foot facility houses Zaman International’s crisis assistance, vocational training and life skills programs, like English literacy.  

It’s also home to their Good Deeds resale shop, which provides clothing, furniture and more for free to clients. The goal is to act as a one-stop-shop where clients can have a variety of needs met.  

“We employ a client choice model, which allows clients to shop with vouchers so that they have a choice in the items they receive whether its food or furniture or clothes,” said Abigail. “It’s about inspiring dignity and hope.” 

In 2017, Zaman opened the Culinary Arts Training Center – a kitchen that would rival that of your favorite five-star restaurant. It offers nutrition and culinary classes as well as meals for client families and community members. 

The organization isn’t limited by the region’s borders. Zaman International has helped to build water wells in four countries and also provides disaster relief. As the organization grows, they envision adding a medical clinic and a legal aid clinic.  

“We want to be able to respond to all the needs of the local community,” Abigail said.   

Looking for ways to increase the impact of your time? Click here to learn how you can make volunteering a part of your everyday life.