President Jaffer continued, “If this [COVID-19] crisis has taught us anything, it is the importance of action and being prepared for the next crisis, no matter how big or small, that can occur at a moment’s notice and change the lives of entire generations.”
She pointed to Mawlana Hazar Imam’s first direct message to the Jamat during the COVID-19 pandemic, where the Imam said, “As we focus now on overcoming the present challenges, the Jamat and all my institutions should plan to build for the future from a position of strength and wisdom.”
Following this guidance, the Ismaili Council for the Southeastern USA organized the FAM360 program to help raise the quality of life for families from all segments of the Jamat, regardless of age, education level, or socioeconomic status. FAM360 focuses on taking concrete actions and setting positive habits by providing participating families with a 360-degree, holistic approach to encourage positive and measurable changes in the areas of emergency preparedness, financial literacy, estate planning, mental health, parental engagement, and exercise and nutrition.
According to FAM360’s Project Manager, Irfan Mandani, “While the Council has numerous programs to assist the Jamat in areas such as education, finances, and healthcare, FAM360 is a comprehensive program that addresses the basic needs preparedness of the Jamat across these categories.” Irfan continued, “Our community has many resources and a great support system, but often we are reactive in the face of a crisis, instead of proactive. FAM360 is a proactive program to help families take action so that they are prepared ahead of time.”
Many of the topics discussed during the information sessions are not new for participants; they relate to habits that many are aware of, but have yet to act upon. Through the most updated information, tools, and practical tips delivered by subject matter experts, and a plan to take action, families are encouraged to take the steps needed to improve their quality of life.
A pilot run for FAM360 showed that participating families gained knowledge during the expert-guided sessions and benefited from concrete tools and guidance that were made available to them, enabling families to accomplish a long list of associated milestones.
Approximately 150 families across the Southeast region participated in the latest cycle of FAM360. They attended bi-weekly sessions that were led virtually by experts in the field. The participation of all family members was required at these sessions. They were then asked to complete action items and to update their program facilitators on their progress.
For example, following the “Choices for Health” information session, families joined weekly workout sessions and consulted with a dietician to plan healthy food choices, thereby improving their overall health and reducing their risk of chronic disease. Similarly, after the “Wills and Estate Planning” session, attorneys were available for family consultations and will preparation. Many families took photos and videos as they worked on the weekly action items. These photos and videos helped to preserve memories and were shared with other families to motivate them to also complete the milestones.
Participant Lubna Budhwani said, “Often we know how to improve our lives but need the motivation to take action.” She appreciated the frequent reminders from the program facilitators to ensure that she and her family were carrying out the assigned tasks to reach the milestones. Facilitators also helped answer questions and provided support to ensure maximum success for each participating family.
Azeem Fidai was grateful for the opportunity to participate in FAM360. The program encouraged him to spend quality time with his family and instilled the idea of creating good habits. He said, “Be it health, finance, emergency preparedness, estate planning, or parenting, creating habits and being consistent is the way to achieve your goals.”
Shireen Bhanjee was a lead for the program and was impressed with the caliber of the professionals and experts leading the information sessions. Her favorite session was on mental health. She remarked, “The session helped me realize that each one of us needs to take out time for ourselves and give importance to our mental health. The speaker encouraged us to remove the stigma around mental health and to make sure that we seek professional help for our mental health.”
The next round of FAM360 is scheduled to begin in early 2022. Families who are committed to attending the sessions and following through with the action items and setting positive habits are encouraged to apply.