Houston’s Mayor Sylvester Turner accepted a donation of half a million reusable face masks from Focus Humanitarian Assistance USA (FOCUS) and the Ismaili Council for the Southwestern US. The formal announcement of the donation took place at Houston’s City Hall on 17 June 2020.

“Covid-19 has been especially challenging for those in our society who are already socially or economically marginalized, whether that is based on age, race, ethnicity, and so on,” remarked President of the Ismaili Council for the Southwestern US, Murad Ajani. “Amidst these realities of Covid-19, our faith compels us to ask: how do we care for our most vulnerable neighbors?”

Acknowledging the donation, Mayor Turner said that “The City’s Mask-Up Campaign encourages Houstonians to continue to safeguard themselves from potential exposure to Covid-19. Because face masks can save lives, today I am pleased to be joined by the Ismaili Council for the Southwestern USA and FOCUS to accept a donation of half a million reusable face masks. Their donation comes in a timely fashion when the emphasis is squarely on wearing face masks. I am grateful for the donation.” He added that the City would distribute the much-needed masks to at-risk populations, community organizations, and first responders.

The contribution is but one example of a long history of collaborative efforts between the City of Houston and the Ismaili Muslim community, ranging from activities of Ismaili youth to rehabilitate homes in Houston’s historic Freedman’s Town, to efforts to support access to the arts for Houstonians of all backgrounds.

President Ajani added, “As Covid-19 has confronted our homes, members of the Ismaili community in several cities have organized ‘Share Your Blessings’ drives, donating tons of food to support those experiencing food insecurity, and, given critical blood shortages during the Covid-19 public health crises, have opened up Ismaili Jamatkhanas for blood drives. The Ismaili Muslim community actualizes our values by serving others.”

Addressing the Ismaili Muslim community, the Mayor remarked “on behalf of the City, your City, let me thank you for just stepping up again in a moment of need.” Mayor Turner added that “during challenging times, the Ismaili community has collaborated on disaster preparedness including the thousands of volunteer hours during the recovery effort for Hurricane Harvey, for which they were recognized with the Points of Light award. Their goal is to improve the quality of life for everyone, and that is welcomed during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Also present at the event was Shenila Momin, Chairperson of FOCUS USA, an affiliate of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), who said, “This donation is one more manifestation of a collaboration between the Ismaili Imamat and the State of Texas,” noting that in 2009, the State of Texas and the Ismaili Imamat entered into an Agreement of Cooperation, focusing on natural disaster preparedness and recovery, health sciences, and other areas of mutual concern. The agreement calls for collaboration to reduce risk and respond to threats to public health, safety, and the welfare of vulnerable communities.

Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States and will also be the site of the seventh Ismaili Center, situated in the heart of Houston, on Allen Parkway and Montrose Blvd.