Kausar Hussain poses for a portrait inside of her home in Blaine, MN on Mar. 24, 2023. Credit: Jaida Grey Eagle | Sahan Journal

When Kausar Hussain founded the Dr. Shabaz Charity Group in 2019 in honor of her son who died in a tragic accident in 2014, the nonprofit quickly became known for providing social services to the Muslim community. The group became known for its iftar boxes, which delivered dinner to families in need during the first Ramadan of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since then, the charity has evolved into a mental health advocacy nonprofit called Sukoon: Healing of The Minds*. The move stemmed from listening sessions Hussain, a Blaine resident, held with members of the Muslim community, including participants as young as middle schoolers.

Sukoon, which specializes in serving the Muslim community, launched a helpline in February to provide immediate support and resources for people struggling with their mental health. Whether people are experiencing severe distress or simply need someone to talk to, they call the helpline at 763-363-2088 between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. every day of the week. 

The organization is currently working to expand the helpline to 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., and is in the process of recruiting and training culturally competent volunteers to answer the calls. The volunteers, called respondents, will provide callers with resources, help them determine their next steps, and help de-escelate suicide ideation. The helpline complies with federal healthcare privacy laws; all calls are confidential. 

Sukoon also provides virtual urgent care through its Connect Clinic program through the helpline. The group also provides mental health first aid training to individuals and organizations. 

As part of Sahan Journal’s coverage of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, we’ll be highlighting several community members and their charitable deeds over the next few weeks. Ramadan began on the evening of March 22, and ends with a worldwide celebration of Eid al-Fitr tentatively set for April 21. The holiday commemorates the month when the Qur’an, the Islamic holy book, was first revealed more than a thousand years ago. 

Observing Muslims who are physically capable abstain from food and drink daily from dawn until sunset during Ramadan. Muslims also pray throughout the day, read the Qur’an, spend time bettering themselves, and treat others with kindness, which often includes donating to charities.

Hussain shared the charitable causes that are important to her, and talked about the organizations she’ll be supporting during the holy month. The interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

How are you giving back this Ramadan?

If you’re interested in talking to Sahan Journal about the causes and organizations you’re supporting this Ramadan, please email hansari@sahanjournal.com to set up an interview.

What are you thinking about most this Ramadan? 

The number one thing is my ibadah, or worship—concentrating on fasting, continuing to better myself in regards to ibadah. The other thing is supporting local organizations. It’s always an honor to go to fundraisers within our community. I have a whole list of events I’ve scheduled myself to go to. Being around the community and around people, that is something that gives you strength and gives you energy. 

What causes are important to you?

Mental health is really near and dear to me, because of Sukoon, and also because personally within my family there is a person going through some mental health issues. It’s important that we take care of them and that we destigmatize this. 

That is a huge thing in our community right now. We don’t talk about it, we don’t share it. It’s really important for me to talk about this, share more information, and be vocal about mental health. 

What charities or groups are you donating to during Ramadan and why?

Education is number one for me. So Al-Amal, an Islamic school in Fridley, is top of my list. And so is Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood For Empowerment, a Muslim women’s advocacy group, because sisterhood is so important. 

Building Blocks of Islam, a social services nonprofit for Muslims based in Columbia Heights, also does great work.

How can others join in your support?

There are multiple ways people can support Sukoon. I’m a volunteer executive director.  And because of limited resources, there’s so much work that needs to be done, but we’re unable to do it. We need people helping us with outreach. 

We’re looking for respondents for the help line. Respondents are volunteers. People are coming forward but we still need more. The more people come forward the more we can open shifts to 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. 

We have a marketing and outreach intern position open right now. God-willing, by the end of April we’ll also open a position for a marketing and development manager. That will be huge. Getting the right person in the job is really critical because a marketing and development manager is what will take the organization in the direction it needs to go.

Of course, financially, that’s where we need the most help. We have a Launchgood page to expand and sustain the organization.

We also need volunteers to serve on committees. For example, we have a mental health professional committee, but we need people to join it. The committee’s job is to give us feedback when there is a need. These are the people who are experts in the field, so we need their help and their information. We have multiple board positions open as well.

People can reach out through our website to get in involved with us.

*Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the correct name of Kausar Hussain’s organization, Sukoon: Healing of the Minds.

Hibah Ansari is a reporter for Sahan Journal covering immigration and politics. She was named the 2022 Young Journalist of the Year by the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists. She’s a graduate...