South Bay woman devotes life to feeding the needy

November 25, 2011 7:44:01 PM PST
This is the time of year many people give to food banks and think about those less fortunate during the holidays, but one woman in Santa Clara has dedicated herself to feeding the hungry for nearly two decades.

If you spend any time at all with Habibe Husain, it seems the only time she's not moving is when she's praying. This chapter of her spiritual journey began in 1993 during the Muslim holy month of Ramadaan.

"I was asking divine inspiration on how I should spend the rest of my life," Husain said. "In the middle of the night, this name kept coming to me: Raheem, Rahima, Raheem, Rahima. I kept on hearing this voice inside me."

The next morning, Husain looked up the word in Arabic and found it meant mercy, compassion and justice. Her quest to serve the needy began.

The 66-year-old grandmother started collecting food to feed just a few families in the South Bay and quickly outgrew her. From a warehouse in Santa Clara, Rahima Foundation now distributes nearly 10 tons of food a month. About 80 percent of the clients are Muslim.

The non-profit Rahima Foundation is open to everyone and relies strictly on private donations and a partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank.

Husain herself is from Turkey but says many immigrants from Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries need an organization they can trust and turn to with dignity.

"Well-to-do people who lost everything in the war and are now refugees, some fo them come with big sadness in saying, I never thought in my life I would ask for charity, and look what has happened to us," Husain said.

Over the years, Husain has quietly worked miracles and never stopped working.

"Imagine anyone devoting 18 years of their life to one purpose," said Athar Siddiqee, "and that really is what Habibe has done."

The founder of Rahima Foundation is as firm as she is compassionate. Volunteers say she is organized, tenacious and inspiring.

"She really is delightful for all of us," said volunteer Aida Hamshari. "We see how she is going and we all strive to be like that."

In the Muslim world, giving is one of the five essential pillars of faith. Husain has dedicated herself to a higher purpose and is humble in her efforts.

"Those people who think I am amazing, and I am somebody, I am not," Husain said. "I thank them very much, but I am a very ordinary person whose quest is to attain love of God, and my believe is to achieve this through service."


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