The day Rima Waizani’s husband came home describing the poor state one of his mates was living in was the day she knew she could be doing something more to help others.
There was barely any food in his mate’s house, and his nine children were surviving on dry biscuits.
“That whole night I was thinking there’s got to be something that we could do,” Ms Waizani says.
She put up a post on her Facebook page to see if anyone could donate food, and within two days her house was flooded with groceries.
Reflecting back, it was that one act of kindness which led to a full-time career in volunteering.
“I loved it. That’s when I really got into it,” Ms Waizani says.
“It’s not as hard as people think it is. It’s very time consuming, 100 per cent. But if you can help, help.”
Ms Waizani has won Volunteer of the Year at the Australian Muslim Achievement Awards, which recognises dedicated individuals and organisations who have excelled in various areas within Australian society.
“I love doing what I do. I feel I’ve been put on this Earth for a purpose. I feel like it’s a duty, like I have to help,” she says.
Her work over the past two-and-a-half years with CC Community Kitchen has helped hundreds of asylum seekers, refugees, domestic violence victims and people doing it tough, by providing food, clothing and furniture.
“The community needs to help each other,” Ms Waizani says.
“Our organisation helps anyone in need. We don’t differ any nationalities, colour, race, religion. We’ve helped people from every kind of background and religion. If you need help, we help.”
She believes the biggest problem within the community is the cost of rent in the major cities.
“Rent in Sydney is too high, they’ve got to do something about that. It’s a big issue in our country,” she says.
Being a positive Muslim role model is extremely important to Ms Waizani and she is thrilled with her award, but says tomorrow things will carry on as usual.
“It’s nice to be recognised and I thank all my supporters, but it’s not going to change anything. I’ll keep doing what I do. I don’t do it to be awarded for it,” Ms Waizani says.
“I do it because I love doing it.”
Fellow volunteer and good friend Rana Akkiuch Taha says she is really deserving of the accolade.
“She’s done a lot of hard work this year. We’re all really, really happy for her,” Ms Akkiuch Taha says.
“Having the word out there and having peoples’ trust is so big.
“With or without [the award] she’s still a winner.”
Success means giving back to the community
Restaurant owner in Punchbowl, Bashar Krayem, volunteers with CC Community Kitchen alongside Ms Waizani, helping support refugees, homeless people, and single parents.
This year he has won Man of the Year, but was shocked to even be nominated.
“To accept even a nomination for that is a very humbling one, but in saying that it’s been a little bit of embarrassing at same time, because you don’t want to be recognised for some good works you do,” Mr Krayem says.
He says he is simply following the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, helping his community.
“We live in the community and we are around community, so we try our best to deal with the community in the best way possible and whatever work we can do to create a good environment community.”
Mr Krayem has been working in the hospitality industry since he was 12 years old as a kitchen hand, and says he has always been fascinated with the food industry.
He admits he goes through difficulties as a business owner, however he always tries to look at challenges in a positive way.
“There’s no such thing as failure… but you know what you learnt and you move forward, you just have to have drive,” he says.
These days aside from his restaurants, he fully dedicates his time to work with various communities.
Not only does he provide financial support and food, he also hosts 200 refugee families to come and enjoy the first day of Ramadan every year. He also employs refugees and others from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“We do a lot of works with local churches. So when they have events, we come to the event, we supply the food… we attend if they have meetings. So whatever the case they have, if there any concern in the community… we will be there to support them.”
Mr Krayem believes that being successful means giving something back to the community.
“That’s very important to create that opportunities that other people will probably think twice about having these kinds of people in their premises. But this is your duty of care,” Mr Krayem says.
When one of his sons came to him asking why there are always bad stories about Islam in the media, he was a bit struck. His son asked point blank: “Are we bad people?”
“I said ‘No… look, we need to be proud of who we are… because our belief system is we care for one and another, and we love one another, and we want to help one another’,” Mr Krayem says.
“Once people see the truth side of Islam, they would then appreciate us, we don’t have to turn and change our opinion of what we believe in to impress other people and this is what I teach to my kids.”
Contributing to society
This year marks Mission of Hope’s 11th annual Australian Muslim Achievement Award.
Here’s the full list of this year’s winners:
Woman of the Year: Dr Randa Abdel-Fattah
Man of the Year: Bashar Krayem
Youth of the Year: Oussama Abou-Zeid
Professional of the Year: Ahmed Fahour
Role Model of the Year: Mo Alyatim
Sportsperson of the Year: Bachar Houli
Creative Artist of the Year: Osamah Sami
People’s Choice of the Year: Osman Karolia
Volunteer of the Year: Rima Waizani
Community Organisation of the Year: Islamic Women’s Association of Australia Queensland
Community Event of the Year: Islamophobia Report Launch
Business of the Year: One 4 Kids
Best New Community Project of the Year: Linked Up
Media Outlet / Personality of the Year: Ali’s Wedding
Abyssinian Award: Michael Brull
Lifetime Achiever of the Year: Abla Kadous