Hoops helps a shelter for Muslim women

On Nov. 9, Nisa Homes, a transitional shelter for Muslim women affected by domestic violence hosted Hoops for Homes, a basketball tournament fund-raising event.

The tourney was held at the Crescent Heights High School gymnasium in and 60 people registered to participate.

November was Family Violence prevention month in Alberta. The provincial theme #WhereToTurn focussed on encouraging Albertans to learn about resources available to those affected by family violence.

The goal of the fund-raiser according to Lobna Al-Wadeiah, the event organizer and a case worker at Nisa Homes, was reaching out to community members that would “usually not be present at our other events” and to start conversations about why women’s shelters exist.

Nisa Homes case worker: Lobna Al-Wadeiah, case worker for Nisa Homes in Calgary, on Nov. 9. Al-Wadeiah hopes conversations about family violence will spark thoughts in people’s minds every day about what we need to do to eliminate family violence and abuse. (Photo by Maha Siddique/The Press)

Al-Wadeiah hopes to use conversations and awareness to lessen the negative impact of social issues by giving people a safe space to come forward and speak about their struggles.

Muslim women in need of accessing the shelter system often find themselves having to constantly justify their lifestyle. – Lobna Al-Wadeiah

“I wish people understood the need and purpose for Nisa Homes. We often have people asking us why ‘we are breaking up families.’” said Al-Wadeiah.

“Nisa Homes exists to save women and children from already broken families.”

Support is also available for women experiencing homelessness and in need of a support network. Being Muslim is also not a requirement.

Nisa Homes is the only shelter in Calgary with a focus on catering the religious and cultural needs of Muslim women and their children.

“Muslim women in need of accessing the shelter system often find themselves having to constantly justify their lifestyle,” explains Al-Wadeiah.

“It’s constantly having to explain why they can’t eat certain things, or, if they wear a hijab, why a strange man can’t simply walk into their room.”

Nisa specifically works from a culturally sensitive lens to make it easier for women in already difficult situations to feel “at home.

According to Al-Wadeiah, up to 40 per cent of women reaching out to shelters in Calgary are visible Muslims. There is a big need.

“The majority of client referrals come from shelters in and around Calgary.” she said.

All proceeds from the hoops event went towards operation expenses at Nisa Homes Calgary, which is funded through private donations.

“Since launching in March 2019, we have supported 60 individuals as of September 2019,” said Al-Wadeiah.

“We see that most clients who leave Nisa Homes are able to find their own housing.”

Aisha Sharar came to support the cause and her husband Khalil Ebrahim, who registered to play.

“There are very few women’s shelters for Muslim women and I think catering to the religious and cultural needs of women is necessary when dealing with domestic violence. It’s definitely lacking in the mainstream shelter system.” she said.

Sharar believes differences in cultural norms, traditions and religious beliefs may prevent some Muslim women from seeking help.

“A specialized shelter can help women feel more seen, heard and understood,” Sharar said.

Danish Baig, an electrical engineer and active volunteer in the Muslim community, participated in support of the cause and for a chance to build connections with the community.

Shelter helper: Danish Baig, 31, participated in the Hoops for Homes basketball tournament fund-raiser at the Crescent Heights High School on Nov. 9. Baig last played basketball in university but this tournament inspired him to pick the sport up again. (Photo by Maha Siddique/The Press)

“We need to talk about it in our communities and educate our children on forming positive relationships with our spouses.” he said.

According to Baig, engaging community events like Hoops for Homes are great for raising awareness and dialogue about the pervasive nature of domestic abuse within communities.

“It’s a positive way to discuss a negative circumstance.” he said.

Nisa Homes is always in need of committed and passionate volunteers to take ownership of this cause and donations are always welcome.

“We also welcome donations of furniture and household items, and donations on a need basis. When women move out they often have nothing with them and have a limited amount of money to set up their homes,” said Al-Wadeiah.

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