Due to popular demand from the students at UCR, IOK Chaplaincy hit a new milestone over the summer, offering office hours for the duration of the summer session. After a three-week break following the Spring Quarter, office hours resumed and we’re excited to share the updates.
From the very beginning, the MSA board booked a space and planned out the summer program. Discussions about an Alumni Association continued with the chaplain providing contact info of several former student leaders and long-time alumni to facilitate the conversation with current students. The MSA president met with Shaykh Ahmad regularly throughout the summer, planning the summer session, consulting about different programs, sharing feedback about a recent Islamophobia Conference, requesting the participation of the chaplain in the annual brother’s retreat, and discussing the idea of an Associate Chaplain.
A meeting with the director of the Middle Eastern Student Center (MESC) was set up to formally introduce Shaykh Ahmad and the chaplaincy program. The meeting was very positive and long overdue, as there is an intersection of serving the student body and meeting the needs and challenges of a shared demographic. The director requested to utilize IOK Chaplaincy as a resource of support for the students the center serves by referring people to Shaykh Ahmad during office hours. The idea was welcomed and we are moving toward future collaboration. It was also requested that Shaykh Ahmad attend some of the MESC programs when his schedule allows.
In light of a needs assessment, a serious conversation about introducing Ust. Yafa Aweinat as an associate female chaplain to the IOK Chaplaincy team serving UCR began. IOK Director Shaykh Nomaan Baig welcomed the idea and supported it fully. A few meetings were facilitated between the MSA sisters’ chair and other board members to introduce Ust. Yafa to them. Shaykh Ahmad met with Yafa personally to discuss the future role and the needs to be met, and then she was formally introduced as part of the IOK Chaplaincy team serving UCR.
Recent graduates continue to turn to Shaykh Ahmad for consultation as they transition to their new lives post graduation. Students from local community colleges also sought out the services of the chaplain for sexual abuse cases and parent-child conflicts related to mental and behavioral health.
The second week of summer, we had a domestic violence call from one of the students late at night. We personally went to the student to show her support and to give her options and resources related to her case. We encouraged her to get professional help and continued monitoring the situation.
We started a class during the summer about Religions and History. Questions were raised about the Decree of God and Fate, which were further elaborated on during office hours.
Shaykh Ahmad met with IOK Chaplaincy Director Shaykh Jamaal to discuss the progress of the UCR Chaplaincy Program. They shared experiences on the campuses served, along with some of the main challenges the students face. This also led to a meeting between several IOK Chaplains to discuss matters relevant to our field of work and to have a formal introduction to some of the new team members serving UCLA, CSULB, UCSD and UCR. Various resources were shared related to counseling Muslims, pastoral care, and Emotional Intelligence.
At one point this summer, a young man sitting in the meditation room at the same time the Muslim students performed their ritual worship was moved to tears and requested information about Islam. He was referred to the chaplain and set up a meeting using the website. It was a very fruitful meeting, which focused on helping the young man network with support groups as he was going through hardship in life. He was invited to a meal and given contact info of local students for future help. The young man was comforted by the fact that although talking about religion is positive, it may not be the best approach when one is vulnerable and weak. God and religion were briefly discussed but most of the meeting was about trying to get help for him without taking advantage of his weakness and vulnerable state.
Several new students came to office hours for the first time to discuss a variety of issues ranging from relationships, family dynamics, father-daughter relationship, arranged marriages, culture, to career planning, investments, job market, and finally religious rulings on different topics in ritual worship, the guidance prayer, sermon preparation, community organizing, social justice and scrupulosity.
Near the end of the summer session on August 26th, Shaykh Ahmad attended a Responder Certification in Youth Training for Mental Health First Aid. This program is for adults who work with youth. For more information, please visit https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/take-a-course/course-types/youth/ It is something much needed as we have had several cases of suicidal youth in the demographic we serve on college campuses and have recently heard of other cases of youth suicides in the community. The training shared that suicide is the #2 cause of youth death in the US. Every hour and 38 minutes, a young person commits suicide. The week after the training, Shaykh Ahmad stopped by a local masjid on the way to UCR to find it packed with people attending a funeral for a 24-year-old medical school student who committed suicide. In addition, the week before preparing this report, two students at UCR reached out for help as they were contemplating suicide.
Over all, the summer session, which covered the two months of July and August was a great success and a new experience for Chaplaincy in keeping Shaykh Ahmad accessible to the students not only via email and off-campus appointments, but on campus where it is much more convenient for the students.
We pray for the continued success of the chaplaincy and look forward to new milestones with the addition of the Associate Chaplain and better communication with the students.