She started helping the poor Detroit community at home. Now its non-profit has reached 250,000 people.


She worked as a nurse in 1996 when she visited an Iraqi refugee family to help care for their dead infant. He knew the situation was going to be difficult, but he wasn't ready for what he was facing.

"There, at home, I got my first look at poverty … They had absolutely nothing," he said. "There was no refrigerator, no stove, no crib … There was a baby in a laundry basket, on clean white towels."

"I was so devastated by it … I decided it wasn't going to happen to my watch."

On that day, Bazzy and her family gathered all the furniture and household items they could – including a crib – and handed everything over to the family. It has not stopped since.

For years, Bazzy has been striving for goodwill from her home, donating goods to her family's microbrewery. Eventually, her efforts evolved into Zaman International, a non-profit foundation that now supports poor women and children of all backgrounds in the Detroit area. The team has helped more than 250,000 people.

According to the US Census Bureau, more than a third of Detroit residents – and nearly half of the city's children – live in poverty. It is the poorest big city in America.

Today, Zaman operates a 40,000-square-foot facility in the Inkster suburb. The group's warehouse offers food corridors, rows of clothes and huge sets of furniture for free to those in need. The team's case managers help clients access housing and other services.

"We're trying to stabilize them as quickly as we can," Bazzy said. "Women are walking in and in desperate need, and coming out with their basic needs met."

Donations to the group's clothing and furniture are also available to the public through the Good Deeds Resale Shop.

"Our mothers can come, get a coupon and have the same decent shopping experience as anyone else, but they don't have to pay for it," he said. "This is dignity."

The nonprofit also offers clients free training and job placement, as well as vocational training through tailor-made and culinary arts programs. The goal is to help women become self-sufficient.

"We are a one-stop shop," he said. "We're helping our clients move from one hand to another because when you're in crisis … the idea of ​​how to get out of it is overwhelming."

Sherri Blanton, a native of Detroit, was upset when she came to Zaman. Her marriage had recently ended and her health issues had left her unable to support her daughter.

"I couldn't stand with my two feet, it was difficult," Blanton said, tearing. "They helped me with clothes, furniture, my car … They took me when I was down, they really did."

Blanton completed the culinary arts program and is now working as a kitchen apprentice at Zaman.

"I look forward to going to work every morning," he said. "That was just a step for me … Maybe next year or so I'll be a chef!"

Ultimately, Bazzy wants to empower women to reach their potential.

"People just need an opportunity and they need hope," Vazzi said. "We do it better."

CNN's Kathleen Toner spoke with Bazzy about her work. Below is a version of their conversation.

CNN: How has Zaman evolved from the beginning?

Najah Bazzy: Zaman started helping refugees during the post-Gulf War when we had a huge number of Iraqi refugees coming into the Detroit area. But after a few years, I saw another population that was even more marginalized: the single mother, trying to raise her children with nothing.

Now, we are focusing on women with children living well below the poverty line. Most of our families make less than $ 10,000 a year. We are still helping refugees, but now we have a large African American population. It is open to all. It is not based on faith or culture. All that matters here is: What do you need?

CNN: How does your Muslim faith inspire your work?

Bazzy: Our organization is a little mini-United Nations. Watching African Americans and Arabs and Jews and homosexuals, people with disabilities and everyone working together – I love that. For me, that is the highest expression of faith – just bringing people together. Islam is full of lyrics about taking care of humanity, but I think I would be that person regardless of the course of faith I followed. Because in my heart I believe we are one human family.

CNN: How has your upbringing affected your decision to do this work?

Bazzy: People are often shocked when I say, "My family has been in America for 125 years." My parents were born here, and my dad served in the army during the Korean War. I grew up in the south end of Dearborn, just outside of Detroit. Today, it is known to have the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the United States, but when I grew up, it was a hub for immigrants. They were people from Poland, Italy, Macedonia, Mexico and we learned about their traditions and their different religions. That's why I love diversity.

Neighbors sat on the front porch and shared food. The children would go from house to house. And just the amount of care people had for each other – there I learned to love my neighbor.

CNN: It was recently the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Your non-profit body expanded in the years after the attacks – a time when some people viewed Muslims with suspicion. How did this affect you?

Bazzy: There is a great risk of doing what I do, as a visible Muslim woman in hidzab. I have a death threat. I had to have the protection around me. It's an awkward feeling. To know that you can make love, but there are people out there who will judge love, sadly. I want to make every breath count, so I can't be afraid of those who choose hatred. I can only control the love I have in my heart and choose that love.

Do you want to get involved? Checkout the Zaman International website and see how to help.
To donate to Zaman International via CrowdRise, Click here