Two boys walked into a bowling alley…
Last fall, Habitat Chicago Executive Director, Jen Parks, offered a challenge to those in attendance at our annual Benefit Breakfast: let us work together to prevent fear and differences from stirring hatred and, instead, let our shared vision of a stronger future be our compass. This summer, we have been lucky to work alongside two young brothers who have demonstrated this is a challenge we all can and should take on.
In 2010, brothers Sawleh and Mohsin Waraich, then 8- and 11-years-old, realized something quite wise for boys their age: they had been blessed with a life in which they felt comfort and care and were able to dream of a future of opportunity and happiness. With this recognition came a thoughtful sense of responsibility to create a more just world, in which we all begin our lives at the same starting line. At this moment, and after talking through how they also wanted folks to have some fun, the annual Waraich family bowling fundraiser began.
Each year since, they have executed the same process. They do their research. They dive into the missions and visions of nonprofit organizations. They meet with representatives from the organizations to ask the outstanding questions they have. And they select their partner for that year. They set huge goals for themselves, because they know their friends, family, and extended community will support a cause they believe is deserving of investment. They reserve lanes. They sell tickets to bowl. They raffle off prizes they’ve collected. They ask people to donate what they can before, during, and after the event – $5, $10, $100 – because every gift that comes through makes all the difference. And what success they have had! In total, they have raised $80,000 (Yep, you did the math right – Sawleh Waraich has raised $80,000 before even getting his Driver’s License!)
This year, the Waraich brothers selected Habitat Chicago as their partner and brought together 80 individuals to raise $10,000 (and counting!) at their bowling event. We are grateful for this. And we are even more grateful to have witnessed Sawleh and Mohsin’s insight and ambition firsthand. In what they say and what they do, there is an extraordinary drive to champion communities of inclusiveness, in which we stand distant from judgment, learn from one another, and work in this shared space to build a thriving society.
Sawleh and Mohsin purposefully host their fundraiser during the Ramadan holiday, when members of the Islam community are fasting and live exceptionally charitably. At this year’s event, we overheard Mohsin say, “This is amazing, seeing people fasting, not fasting, of all ages, races, genders, backgrounds. It’s incredible how little our differences matter.” And Sawleh continues, “It means the world to us to see even during these uneasy times, to see all these people working together for one cause –to help others. It’s overwhelming and we are ecstatic.” These brothers know that, at the end of the day, we have more in common than we do not.
And their efforts to learn about and fight unjust housing conditions is not ending any time soon. This very week, they are bringing 30 people out to volunteer on the Habitat Chicago construction site in West Pullman and will spend a day with Habitat for Humanity in Maui during a family vacation next month to learn how colonization has affected the indigenous people on the island.
It can sound complicated or intimidating, but Sawleh and Mohsin, just 16 and 19 years old, remind us that we all have the power to show up for what we believe.