Little Blue Envelopes: A Lifeline. A Promise.

The envelope is navy blue, measuring 12 inches by 6 inches. The flap openings join in the middle and are sealed with a circular silver sticker. A logo is printed on the sticker with the letters I,R,W. Every couple of months, thousands of these blue envelopes leave from Buena Park in California bound for homes in every state across the country. Similarly, across the ocean, thousand and thousands more leave the headquarter offices in London, for cities and countries across Europe.
Three of these envelopes are addressed to Sonia and I. They are flown by the US Postal Service to a regional processing center, then are driven to our mailbox by our regular mailman in Plano, Texas. He raises the red flag on the mailbox, Sonia'll go out, and pick up the mail, sort through the regular junk mail, and when the blue envelopes are discovered - they're put on top of the pile, and she starts reading the contents.
Each blue envelope is an update, each one is a lifeline.., a promise. Sonia opens the first one, four pages inside, stapled. First page is usually a picture - Sonia studies the picture, the little girl in the picture's smiling, she's growing up in a hurry. Flip to the second page, the update:
"Housing Information
Halima Khatun stays in her grandfather's house. It is a tin shed (22' x 9') tow roomed house with balcony. Two wooden doors and two windows are present... Possesses one chair, one table, one sanitary latrine. The house needs quick repairemen being almost broken down. Possesses one hen... Halima's guardian is her granny as Halima's new father wants a fresh family.
... She is in sound health.
... She is comfort in English and weak in Math... Starts taking Islamic study through Ampara (first step to know Arabic) and says prayers five times regularly. Likes to visit mother when gets time or on holidays.
Halima's family consists of two (2) instead of five (5-supposed to be). Granny Achia Khatun (46), housewife, took up Halima's responsibility as a guardian while Halima's three uncle's have their own lives. The sponsorship revived her existing family from dying as there is no suitable person in to family to earn.
Hobbies and Interests
Halima likes planting for a future nice garden of flowers. Her favorite dress: Islami dress. Food: meat. Color: Green. play: outdoor-skipping through rope, swimming, climbing tree)... Earnestly hopes to meet donor and if possible, to get a letter from him with family.
Message to donor
... Halima and her family pray and praise for his donor for the continuous financial support for the family's changed positive life and updated status in the society."
Flip to the third page - a bonus, more pictures. She's smiling again, standing with her mother in one of the pictures, she's wearing a white shawl over her blue dress, a green beret in her hair, in the background, you can see a crop field.
Flip again to the last page, it's a drawing. Halima's drawing of a flower, green, blue red and brown, each petal's been outlined and detailed with her colored pencils. How much time did she spend on this? What was she thinking, as she colored in the rose? Was she thinking of our world?
When Islamic Relief Worldwide sends out these lifelines of blue envelopes - we get three of them. Each one's a glimpse into a child's precarious life, one from Halima in Rajbari, Bangladesh, one from Sana Jahangir in Islamabad, Pakistan, and one from Mariam Gandera in Bamako, Africa. Sana's in good health, her mother's sick, she's not doing well in school. She pray to Allah for us. Her picture to us, is of a flowerpot and a hen. Mariam's hut doesn't have water or electricity. She's received all her vaccinations, she has one sister and three brothers in school with her. Her father died due to Malaria in 1995, he was a beggar. Last year her Mother died, so she lives with her aunt now. She's drawn a flower for us. The last line in her update is the same as the other two, she says her family raises their hand to the creature (meaning Creator), and prays for us.
I have to admit something here, I haven't been paying attention to the updates, I usually get to hear them second-hand from Sonia. Urgent email gets in the way, time gets in the way, life gets in the way. As I read the last update from the little blue envelope, I realize that it's my disorganized priorities that have gotten in the way.
All over America, these little envelopes are linked with families who have the heart to do something other than read the morning paper, sip a cup of Joe, and head out into the fray. Islamic Relief Worldwide is just one organization doing its part, there's many good people doing good work, Invisible Children is another.
As I watch my own son, who's struggling to stand on his own, as he's getting ready to walk soon, the little blue envelopes remind me, that it's not always the year long documentary I'm working on.., sometimes it's just as simple as writing a letter to a little girl across the world, and sharing a picture of my wife, and my one-year old son.
Note: I am not affiliated in any way with any non-profit organization. I want to make that clear because I do not want this story to be read as a "pitch", this is just my reflection - which I hope moves you to act. Inshallah.
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About Naeem Randhawa

Naeem Randhawa is a filmmaker, travel writer, and IT project manager, living in Dallas with his wife and baby boy. He has been writing about travel for over 12 years, and made his film directorial debut last year, with a film about fasting called “American Ramadan.” Having traveled almost every state in the US, Canada, as well as international destinations, his travel writings cover everything from adventure trails across White Sands in New Mexico, exclusive resorts in Quebec, Baja trekking in Mexico, to the many travel destinations in the US. He is currently developing a diversity based travel show, to premiere later this year. A self-starter, he taught himself filmmaking, to add a voice in countering the current media bias and void of Muslim representation in mainstream media. Last year, the film was picked up and broadcast by Link TV, Geo TV, Bridges TV, as well as international networks. This year the documentary will air across 50 PBS stations this year, and reach over 70 million TV US homes. He has also shot, and produced over 70 field television reports for a national satellite network, reporting on the Muslim community locally in Dallas, and at large. Highlights include coverage of on-the-ground reporting from New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, and many others. He is currently working on research for his next documentary projects, about Hajj, Muslims in the US Army, Faith conversion stories, and a PSA for a national organization. His media website can be viewed here at

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