Salaam Gives Back: Istanbul, Turkey

When I started Salaam Nutritionals at the start of 2015 I immediately knew I wanted to use this platform as an opportunity to provide others with nutrients they otherwise would not have access to. Having access to basic health care, such as halal vitamins, was a luxury for most Muslims living in the west and I knew I wanted to provide those same essentials to others around the world.

It was around this time the civil war in Syria was starting to make headlines around the globe and the Syrians were fleeing their land to seek refuge in nearby countries. Istanbul, Turkey had been getting an influx of refugees and the images on TV of families in camps, on the streets, in cramped apartments was something I could not forget. This was my first year starting Salaam Nutritionals and Istanbul is what prompted me to make the intention to organize and make an annual trip overseas to do halal vitamin donations.

 I contacted a few organizations in Istanbul, who were on the ground helping the Syrian refugees get assimilated into Turkish society, what essentials were needed. Once I had a list I got in touch with a few local businesses in CA and received donations and made care packages that contained Salaam Nutritionals Halal Vitamins, tooth brushes, tooth paste, protein based snacks, feminine hygiene products, and packs of tissue.

Once my team and I landed in Istanbul we were told the makeshift camp, where we were going to distribute our care packages, had been torn down by the local police and the refugees were taken to another city. At this point we had two options: go back home with all of our care packages or set off on foot and find the families who needed these packages --- we hit the streets the next morning.

The political climate with so many refugees arriving in Istanbul had been getting tense so they were being forced to get on a bus and relocate towards the border near Greece and Bulgaria. The few Syrians that we did meet and see during the day said that many families are too afraid to come out during the day, because the police will take them away, and it would be better for us to come back at night.

 We came back at night and found many families sitting in the streets and we stopped to try to talk to as many as we could. There was a major language barrier so the next night we walked with an interpreter.  They were all so receptive of our care packages and thankful for the support. The kids loved our halal gummy vitamins and the mothers were happy to know that their children were getting some nutrients for the days they didn’t have much food.

It was my hope that our small token of efforts made each family that we met feel welcome and loved. It was also this moment I realized that the true mission of Salaam Nutritionals was not just to make and sell halal vitamins but to give and donate our time and efforts.