When UT graduate student Usama Malik and his friends arrived in Rowlett, Texas, in January, they were dumbfounded by the devastation a tornado had left in its wake. Homes were torn down and rubble littered the streets, but the group focused on aiding a man who had been tossed aside by the rampaging force after it had ripped directly through his property.
“There was so much destruction, so much debris everywhere,” Malik said. “If you looked at his house there was nothing there, [and] the fact that he survived was a miracle.”
Last spring, Malik co-founded Humanity First Texas Chapter, the UT-student auxiliary of Humanity First USA, an international disaster relief and human development organization. The UT chapter is currently working on setting up a clinic in Chiapas, Mexico, that will cater to indigenous women and children of the area who lack access to basic healthcare. They are holding a benefit dinner for the clinic at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 27 in the Student Activity Center Ballroom.
“Our [chapter’s] help meant the world for that person because at that time, he had no one else,” Malik said. “To actually go out there and see how bad of a situation it is really changed people’s perspectives.”
Lila Al-Kassem, an international relations and global studies sophomore, is the National Programs director for Humanity First Texas Chapter. In addition to raising money to pay for supplies, the chapter also plans to send volunteers to Chiapas during spring break to oversee and help with the clinic.
“We really wanted a way to educate people about Chiapas, about the conditions [in which] women and children live there,” Al-Kassem said. “We also wanted to show the Austin and UT communities how wonderful the Chiapas community is.”
Anila Bhatti, a maternity nurse who worked at the Humanity First USA clinic in Guatemala, informed members of the UT chapter about the conditions and needs of the Chiapas community, which is a shuttle ride away from Guatemala. She said one of the illnesses prevalent in the area is cervical cancer, which can be screened for in tests that only cost a few dollars in the U.S..
“We were struck by the fact that a lot of the things they need aren’t necessarily expensive equipment or supplies,” Al-Kassam said. “It’s something that we can very easily supply to them and it’s something that can really change their lives.”
Bhatti coordinated women’s health camps in Guatemala and Mexico for Humanity First for nearly two years and will fly in to speak at the dinner. She will also talk to volunteers about what they can expect overseas.
“In these camps, we can really connect with the people and the culture,” Bhatti said. “The first time I [volunteered abroad] I had all these ideas and expectations, and the trip really surpassed that.”
The Humanity First Texas Chapter also works within a more immediate community outside the directive of Humanity First USA. Last year, they put on a fashion show with the Counseling and Mental Health Center for domestic violence awareness and prevention. When the group works on fundraisers and awareness events outside the scope of their umbrella organization, they turn to member ideas for the issues they’ll address.
“It’s not just a student organization, it’s an experience, and it’s meant to change you for the better so that you can not only empathize with other people, but so you can get a feel for yourself and see how you can best serve mankind,” Malik said. “You can’t serve mankind without knowing mankind.”
Regalo de la Salud/Gift of Health Benefit Dinner
When: 7:00 p.m., Thursday, Oct, 27
Where: SAC Ballroom