At the heart of community is connection – Timaru Muslim Educational Trust

Dr Teh Arfah Dr Teh Arfah from the Timaru Muslim Educational Trust says this COVID-19 Lockdown period has been a difficult time for everyone and their community is no different. People’s living and livelihoods are affected. “For us, the hardest part is not being able to go for prayers to mosque. Mosque is the place where people come, not only to pray but to share their problems and thoughts. This is like a social gathering for us. “Though we were in Lockdown, our community has been in touch through online messaging.” Hui E! Community Aotearoa helped connect the Timaru Muslim Educational Trust with a pro-bono grant writer to apply for a Ministry of Social Development grant during the COVID-19 Lockdown. “The grant is very helpful. We could buy food parcels and vouchers for people who have been financially affected by this Lockdown,” says Dr Teh.

Building a heart for our Muslim community

Timaru Educational Trust, is a charitable organisation of Muslims living in South Canterbury, especially Timaru. The Trust was set up in March 2019 to coincide with acquiring a new mosque for the community. “We are pleased to have purchased a building for use as our Mosque last November, having raised the money through donations. It is the heart of our community – where we gather for our prayers (five times a day and a Friday congregation) and connect with our community to talk about issues our people are facing.” “Our goal is to help our community to settle with ease and be productive in society as quickly as possible,” Dr Teh says. “We hope our community can come out of this COVID-19 Lockdown feeling supported and stronger together. Knowing that we will always be there in hard times should they need help.”

Collaboration has been key

Dr Teh says close collaboration with other community groups has been invaluable. “Groups like the Aoraki Migrant Centre, Family Works, our local MP and the Council have helped reassure us and connect us with the right channels to get all sorts of help for those who need it. “The Aoraki Migrant Centre in particular kept us in the loop with updates and finding the right solutions to problems our people are facing. They have been in touch with us regularly, extending support. They certainly deserve a big applause as they really deliver local solutions to local need and we praise them hugely for that.”

Engaging with the wider community

Dr Teh says she appreciates how people in the wider community have started understanding and engaging with them. “We are here to help extend this communication. We believe better communication will give our people more sense of belonging as the wider community gets to know us better. Events like Unity Day, one of Timaru’s biggest events, are very helpful.   We had a food stall which many people found interesting and our food sold out quickly, within two hours. Read more Aotearoa community sector stories: