Ismaili Volunteers lend a hand to build a better society during MLK Day of Service


On the MLK Day of Service, the ReBuilding Center played host to to a Ismaili volunteer group of ethnically and culturally diverse peoples living in over 25 countries around the world.  We learned a bit about how volunteering and community service are a key Ismaili ethic and are actively encouraged. Hence they have made wide-ranging contributions to the civic life of the communities in which they reside, including education, healthcare, economic development, culture, youth development, and sports. We asked them about their experience with the ReBuilding Center volunteer event, how the Ismailis operate, and their commitment to community service!

How are the local Ismailis organized? Who’s in charge and how do they get the word out?

The Ismaili Muslims in Portland have been gathering together for the past several years.  Recently, the population of Ismailis has grown enough to establish an official community center where individuals and families can congregate, socialize, and participate in service-related activities. Though we do have local congregation leaders, individual members serve in other capacities in Portland, as well as the entire western USA, and the nation as a whole. They may be involved in educational programs for our youth, health advice, financial planning seminars, etc. When events are being organized, the local members meet at our center as well as through social media.

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Asad said to Dave

“this was one of the best events we have volunteered for.”


What made it so great for you and your team?

The de-nailing activity was great because it provided an active hands-on experience. Improving the quality of life of others is an ethic of our faith, and this event really helped us see the impact of our efforts. Moreover, the event was held outdoors, and the beautiful Portland weather in the morning added to the fun.


What other volunteer work have the Ismailis done in Portland?

We have participated in many volunteering events in Portland over the past three years.  Our longest standing partnership is with the Oregon Food Bank, where we regularly send volunteers to pack and organize food.  Our group has also attended one of the biggest events in the city of Portland: the Portland Walk to End Alzheimer’s, where we planted gardens, served on the “thank you brigade,” and assisted with tear-down and clean-up.. The team was present at the “Put Down Roots in Tualatin” event, and assembled packages of trail mix for the needy as well.

Do the Ismailis get together in Portland on a regular basis? Do the Ismailis have a physical Center in Portland?  If not, where do you meet?

Yes, we get together three times a week and we have a place in Northwest Portland where we meet.

We read that the Ismailis are “culturally and ethnically diverse.”  What does this mean exactly? Does that apply to those in the Portland area?

Yes, the Ismailis are a group made up of individuals from all over the world. Many of the individuals in Portland immigrated from countries such as India, Pakistan, Kenya, Afghanistan, and Tanzania, while many others were born in the USA. This melting pot enables the sharing of cultures, cuisines, language, and history, and makes us stronger.

How did you hear about Hands on Greater Portland? What made you choose the ReBuilding Center opportunity?

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Ismaili Community Engaged in Responsible Volunteering (I-CERV) is a group of volunteers that are involved with volunteering activities at least once a month across different cities in the United States of America.  As a lead for those events for Portland, my role is to identify events that volunteers ranging from age 7 to 70+ can enjoy, while contributing and giving back to society.  I came across the Hands on Greater Portland website during this research, and decided to keep an eye out for activities. The ReBuilding Center’s statement caught my attention: “Community is at the heart of our mission, materials are the means,” which is aligned with our own goals.  We aim to improve the quality of life of individuals and the communities in which they live.  The activities the ReBuilding Center promoted sounded engaging and fun, and sure enough, I was proven right!

What was your favorite part about the volunteer experience with the ReBuilding Center? What did you learn?

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I got to learn about how decade-old logs of wood were being put to use by the ReBuilding Center. I really enjoyed Dave’s explanation of the seasonal growth of wood, and the patterns which develop on it as a result.