This Muslim group sprang into action to help Harvey victims in Houston

In the wake of the devastation caused by Harvey, which made landfall in Texas on Friday as a Category 4 storm, countless Houstonians have stepped up to help their neighbors — offering food and supplies to people who have lost everything in the ongoing flooding. For one Muslim youth group, volunteering their service wasn’t even a question.

The Houston-area chapter of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, a national organization of young Ahmadi Muslim men, mobilized quickly to respond to Harvey.

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Texans being evacuated during Hurricane Harvey
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Texans being evacuated during Hurricane Harvey
People evacuate by dump truck from the Hurricane Harvey floodwaters in Dickinson, Texas August 28, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Volunteers unload evacuee Taylor Mitchell from a rescue vehicle at the George R. Brown Convention Center after Hurricane Harvey inundated the Texas Gulf coast with rain causing widespread flooding, in Houston, Texas, U.S. August 28, 2017. Picture taken August 28, 2017. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
Men look for people wanting to be evacuated from the Hurricane Harvey floodwaters in Dickinson, Texas August 28, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Evacuee Pete Quintana Jr. is wrapped in a blanket at the George R. Brown Convention Center after Hurricane Harvey inundated the Texas Gulf coast with rain causing widespread flooding, in Houston, Texas, U.S. August 28, 2017. Picture taken August 28, 2017. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
A man carries a child after being evacuated by dump truck from the Hurricane Harvey floodwaters in Dickinson, Texas August 28, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
People are evacuated by a high water truck from the Hurricane Harvey floodwaters in Dickinson, Texas, U.S. August 28, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
People are evacuated from flood waters from Hurricane Harvey in a collector's vintage military truck belonging to a volunteer in Dickinson, Texas August 27, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Evacuees are airlifted in a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter after flooding due to Hurricane Harvey inundated neighborhoods in Houston, Texas, August 27, 2017. Picture taken August 27, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 3rd Class Johanna Strickland/Handout via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
People are rescued from flood waters from Hurricane Harvey in an armored police mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicle in Dickinson, Texas August 27, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Sterling Broughton is moved from a rescue boat onto a kayak after flood waters from Hurricane Harvey rose in Dickenson, Texas August 27, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Texas National Guard soldiers aid residents in heavily flooded areas from the storms of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, U.S., August 27, 2017 Lt. Zachary West, 100th MPAD/Texas Military Department/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: Barb Davis, 74. is helped to dry land after being rescued from her flooded neighborhood after it was inundated with rain water, remnants of Hurricane Harvey, on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Harvey, which made landfall north of Corpus Christi late Friday evening, is expected to dump upwards to 40 inches of rain in areas of Texas over the next couple of days. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: People are rescued from a flooded neighborhood after it was inundated with rain water, remnants of Hurricane Harvey, on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Harvey, which made landfall north of Corpus Christi late Friday evening, is expected to dump upwards to 40 inches of rain in areas of Texas over the next couple of days. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: People are rescued from a flooded neighborhood after it was inundated with rain water, remnants of Hurricane Harvey, on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Harvey, which made landfall north of Corpus Christi late Friday evening, is expected to dump upwards to 40 inches of rain in areas of Texas over the next couple of days. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: People are rescued from a flooded neighborhood after it was inundated with rain water, remnants of Hurricane Harvey, on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Harvey, which made landfall north of Corpus Christi late Friday evening, is expected to dump upwards to 40 inches of rain in areas of Texas over the next couple of days. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
A boy and girl hug their grandmothers' dogs after being rescued from rising floodwaters due to Hurricane Harvey in Spring, Texas, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. A deluge of rain and rising floodwaters left�Houston�immersed and helpless,�crippling a global center of the oil industry and testing the economic resiliency of a state that's home to almost 1 in 12 U.S. workers. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Rescuers help a woman from a flooded retirement home into a boat after Hurricane Harvey in Spring, Texas, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. A deluge of rain and rising floodwaters left�Houston�immersed and helpless,�crippling a global center of the oil industry and testing the economic resiliency of a state that's home to almost 1 in 12 U.S. workers. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: People wait for a ride to a shelter after being rescued from a flooded neighborhood when it was inundated with rain water, remnants of Hurricane Harvey, on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Harvey, which made landfall north of Corpus Christi late Friday evening, is expected to dump upwards to 40 inches of rain in areas of Texas over the next couple of days. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: Dean Mize holds children as he and Jason Legnon use an airboat to rescue people from homes that are inundated with flooding from Hurricane Harvey on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Harvey, which made landfall north of Corpus Christi late Friday evening, is expected to dump upwards to 40 inches of rain in Texas over the next couple of days. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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Even amid Tuesday’s extreme flooding, they cooked and served hot food, brought snacks and supplies to shelters and checked on neighbors.

Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association hand out hot food in the Houston-area. Source: Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association USA

“This is what it means to be God’s children, this is what it means to live in the image of our creator, to act in this manner,” Bilal Rana, 38, the president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA’s Youth Association, said in a phone call on Wednesday.

All year long, the youth group, which has thousands of members across the U.S., does service work; organizing blood drives, planting trees and cleaning up highways. When Harvey hit on Friday, there was no question that the group’s Houston chapter would do everything they could to help.

“The volunteers are helping when they themselves need help,” Rana said. “In their own time of need, there are people who are saying, ‘How can I help those in greater need?’”

In addition to serving out hot lentils, soup and rice, the group’s volunteers collected basics like baby food, wipes, diapers, fruit and nonperishable snacks and handed them out to displaced Houstonians.

“They went so quick at the shelters, the food ran out, all of the handy snacks went out very, very fast,” Rana said. “There’s really high demand.”

Rana said that more members of the youth association and it’s sister group for young Ahmadi Muslim women were coming in from other places to help with disaster relief. For Rana, performing acts of service in a time of crisis is both a religious obligation and a chance to show the country what Muslim values really mean.

“It’s an opportunity for us to display our true character to the public and say there’s no reason to be afraid of us,” Rana said. “We’re just as American as anyone else. ... We’re not less American because we might have different complexions or some of us are immigrants.”

Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association members serving food in the Houston-area in the wake of Harvey. Source: Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association USA

On Wednesday, Rana was on his way to deliver more food and supplies to people in need. He had his 10-year-old son with him, he said, because “I thought it was a great life lesson.”

Rana added that he hoped his youth group’s Harvey relief work would bring some hope to the frightening scene in Houston this week: “A city needs to see that a neighbor is giving to another neighbor,” he said.

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