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Laughter is the best medicine!

The dust has just settled on our fourth side-splitting Super Muslim Comedy Tour in aid of Penny Appeal’s transformative education programmes around the world.

The Super Muslim Comedy Tour began in 2015 as an effort to reframe our narrative by telling our own stories and championing the talent within our communities. It’s truly an honour to see the standard of comedy on stage improve year-on-year, with many of the acts we have worked with – and still work with today – now breaking into the mainstream and shaking things up in the entertainment industry.

It’s no secret that British Muslims are among the most discriminated communities in the UK, and with the rise of Islamophobia our community is one that often feels marginalised and under threat. Conscious of this context, and as a charity committed to innovation and sustainability, we shape our fundraising efforts in ways that enable us to give something back to our donor communities. The medium of comedy is the perfect choice: it encourages a unique kind of healing while also recognising the privilege we have to be able laugh together in a safe space while so many around the world, and here in the UK, are not so fortunate.

The sold-out 10-city tour brought together a range of diverse comics who teased us with reflections on the quirky particulars of the Muslim experience. Growing up in the media and on TV, I was never able to fully identify with the characters and storylines that were presented to me. When Muslim characters and stories did make their way on-screen, it was almost always a negative portrayal.

There is of course more to Muslims than taxi drivers and terrorists, and our brilliant comics dazzled us with hilarious stories and musings on everything from Biriyani to Brexit. At the same time, we were able to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for our Education First campaign, helping to open new schools so more children can learn to build brighter futures.

Supporting the creative arts has become a hallmark for Penny Appeal, and our teams are already hard at work for our next tour, The Great Muslim Panto, back by popular demand with 20 incredible performances lined up across the country. We can’t wait!

Did you catch any of the performances while we were on tour? Who was your best act? Share your reflections in the comment section and God Willing we will see you on our next tour!

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That’s one small step for SingleMuslim.com, one giant leap for Muslim matchmaking

SingleMuslim.com was created to provide a simple solution to a very complex problem: I needed to get married! Faced with an exotic menu of cousins and ‘connections’ from Pakistan, a country I had never been to (at that time), I knew traditional matchmaking routes just weren’t going to cut it for me. Was it too much to want to find someone who I had more in common with?

My journey really represented the struggle of a generation. How do we break away from traditions that no longer serve us and create new customs that solve the challenges of where we are now, all while staying true to the principles and values of our faith? I found the answer in entrepreneurship and that’s how SingleMuslim.com was born.

Never in a million years did I think 18 years later I would be stood on stage in a room full of industry leaders exploring the latest trends and greatest moves from the matchmaking world. With up to a third of relationships beginning online, the responsibility on the shoulders of those in the online relationship world is immense, and being part of the Global Dating Insights (GDI) Annual London Conference was a brilliant opportunity for the SingleMuslim team to take stock of how far we’ve come and to share our vision for the future.

As I told the audience of industry experts, Muslims are often ignored by mainstream platforms as a ‘niche community’ but what they fail to realise is that there are 1.6 billion Muslims around the world. Not so niche when you put it like that. In fact, Muslim-minority communities and Muslim-majority countries have some of the fastest-growing economies in the world. They also feature young populations who are increasingly more open to the notion of online matchmaking than previous generations when it was seen as a taboo subject. The challenge is how to create a user-friendly platform that is sensitive to faith-inspired cultural proclivities that literally span the entire world. This is what we at SingleMuslim.com have been perfecting for almost two decades: it’s why we have become the Muslim matchmaking platform of choice for British Muslims in all their shapes, sizes and colours.

So, what’s next for us? Having amassed over two million registrations, there are one million messages exchanged on our platform every week and over 60,000 successful marriages so far, and our eyes are firmly set on expansion into new international territories. When I started SingleMuslim most people didn’t even have an internet connection. In fact, many of our first customers introduced the internet into their lives because they wanted to get on SingleMuslim.com! While it seems hard to imagine a society so disconnected from the digital world now, in many parts of the globe, especially Muslim-majority countries, widespread internet access has only recently become a reality. This, coupled with cultural shifts in Muslim communities that perceive digital matchmaking as less of a taboo, mean the market of potential Single Muslims out there has opened up massively.

The potential is huge, and for the first time in our history as a company we are looking outwards for major partners and investors to come on-board and launch our platform to dizzying new heights. Investment might be a small step for SingleMuslim.com, but God willing, it will represent a giant leap for Muslim matchmaking around the world as we help millions more on their journey to a “happily ever after”.

Adeem Younis

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“Charity Chair of the Year” – Third Sector Awards 2018

The annual Third Sector ‘Excellence Awards’ highlight the incredible contributions and achievements made by almost 200,000 charities, social enterprises and not-for-profit organisations registered across the UK.

Over the years, Penny Appeal has been nominated for dozens of awards, highlighting everything from our unique corporate partnerships to our innovative fundraising campaigns. Last week, with stiff competition from some of the UK’s most prolific charities, Penny Appeal was awarded the prestigious “Charity Chair of the Year Award”, a testament to the remarkable achievements of our organisation.

The past year has seen our charity grow in so many different directions, and that has only been possible thanks to the outstanding commitment made by our board, staff, donors – and crucially – our volunteers. It might say my name on the trophy, but I stand on the shoulders of giants: including individual who has worked with us since our inception.

This year we’ve established and evolved meaningful partnerships with leading organisations, including the Amir Khan Foundation, the Department for Education and the Jo Cox Foundation. We have also collaborated with veteran investor James Caan and forged a very special relationship with JustGiving.com

We’ve set out to disrupt the charity sector, and this award recognises our efforts thus far, as well as the incredible dedication of our staff and supporters. The truth is, we’re just getting started! With our ten-year anniversary around the corner, we have so much more in store for the sector and society as a whole!

So, if you’re a charity or run a business or you’re looking for a career change, get in touch! There’s an incredible amount bubbling underway at Penny Appeal and we’re always actively pursuing new relationships and partnerships. It’s our teamwork that makes the dream work! Who knows, you could bring the small change that helps us go out and make an even bigger difference to those most in need across the UK and around the world.

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“Pakistan: My Home from Home”

Growing up in the 1980s it wasn’t uncommon to hear the racist slur: “Go back to your country!” In fact, with the rise of the far right, the infamous words are sadly making quite the come back on our streets. The strange thing for me, as a British Muslim of Pakistani origin, was that home was always Yorkshire. Going ‘back home’ for me was really just a short walk from the playground to my house!

As I began to come of age, I saw amongst my friends and family a diverse set of responses to how they understood the fusion of identities. On one side there were the die-hard, Pakistan-flag bearing patriots; they only ever spoke about how great their nation was and how every other country was inferior (especially India!) On the flip side, there were those who wanted to rid themselves of every possible connection to their motherland, right down to staying out of the sun to avoid further-browning their naturally tanned skin. Ditching curry for crumpets, they were more British then the Brits themselves! Then there was me, somewhere in the middle and somewhat confused.

I grew up with enchanting stories of Pakistan, however having lost my father when I was 8 years old, I think I also lost a big part of my connection to the country too. After that, we focused mostly on getting by as a family and it was only many years later, as my business endeavours enabled me to look more outward, when I began to consider again what it meant to be Pakistani. I thus set off to visit the village where my father was born, hoping to meet estranged family and explore my roots.

Never did I realise the life-changing journey that trip would take me on. I saw a piece of me reflected in the people I met; they spoke the same distinct pothwari dialect that I spoke at home, they ate the same food and like me, they were surrounded by strained circumstances. However, unlike me, they didn’t have the opportunities available to transform their circumstances, they were trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty. I realised what I considered to be small change could mean a big difference to the lives of the people I met and so there and then, I made a pledge to myself to help the people I met and that was the birth of Penny Appeal.

Fast forward ten years and after £60million+ of incredible causes supported worldwide, I find myself once again back in Pakistan. This time I was honoured to visit one of our “Mera Apna Ghar” (literally translates as ‘My Own Home’) Orphan Complexes in Chaksawari, Mirpur, North East Pakistan. On my first trip to the region I was a bona-fide bachelor, avoiding the infamous aunties at all costs, now as a father of four, Penny Appeal’s orphan welfare and education work in Pakistan has taken on a whole new meaning for me.

Al-Shukr Apna Ghar Orphan Home Complex is made up of three homes for 25 girls aged from 3 to 16. Most of children hail from unspeakable backgrounds, but now, through the generous support of our donors, they enjoy fully furnished homes with dedicated study and play areas. It was important that we created an environment that the children could call their own and be proud of, somewhere where we would be proud to send our own kids. Visiting for the first time, I was met with happy and healthy children, with beaming smiles, keen on showing off their games and toys, not unlike my own!

Built in the loving memory of late Mohammed Al-Shukr, the complex includes a specialist school, founded by The Read Foundation, that serves the wider area, admitting almost 300 students and ensuring the orphans we care for are well integrated with the wider society. Also on site are residential facilities for the teachers, the rent of which sustains the day-to-day running of the complex. I was pleased to see Al-Shukr Apna Ghar employs 24 hours security, 3 full-time foster mothers, 2 on site tutors and as well as a full-time coordinator. In addition, on the edge of the complex is a mosque that has become quite the local landmark and serves the wider society.

As I have delved into the world of development and poverty alleviation I’ve learnt how crucial it is to understand the poverty cycle and thus each of Penny Appeal’s programmes are designed to disrupt this the cycle at different stages. One of the most fundamental is education, or as the UN Sustainable Development Goals put it: achieving inclusive and equitable quality education for all. Education is as passport out of poverty, just as school provided me with the opportunities to transform my life, the education our orphan children receive on their secure complex is helping to transform theirs.

On this trip I was blessed to meet two delightful and intelligent girls named Alisha and Qurutal-Ayn, who were among the first children to be enrolled into our Orphan Complex over three years ago. Today both girls are A* students, having achieved over 90% in their most recent exams, including science and maths. They both dream of becoming doctors in the future, hoping to help others just as they were helped. Had it not been for the on-going support of our generous donors, these children would have remained a burden on their society and could even have found themselves exploited in the worst of ways. Instead, they sleep sound and dream of shaping their society and country for the better.

Speaking to the girls about their dreams and ambitions was a stark reminder to me of why I had founded Penny Appeal in the first place and why we work so hard each and every day to build stronger, empowered communities. Our small change has transformed the lives of these children and they will in turn transform their society – that’s what I call a big difference. This is why we exist, so children like Alisha and Qurutal-Ayn are free to dream big and beautiful dreams and have the opportunity to turn those dreams into a reality.

Al-Shukr Apna Ghar is just the tip of the iceberg, we now have Oprhan Home Complexes across Pakistan including in Muzafarabad, Sohawa, Islamabad and Khanewal. Growing up I never knew these places exist, let alone feel much of a connection to them, but now when I think of Pakistan, these thriving Oprhan Homes are the images that come to mine. It’s more than bricks and mortar, they are the seeds that we have planted and that we water for a better tomorrow. They say a house is made of bricks and beams but a home is made of love and dreams and this is what we have built in Pakistan.

When I arrived at the complex, I was greeted by a group of children holding a banner that said: “My world is brighter and more beautiful because of you”- In reality, it’s my world that has become brighter and more beautiful because of them, it’s in their hearts that I have truly found a home from home.

 

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Possibly My Greatest Achievement So Far?

SingleMuslim.com was founded to provide a simple solution to a complex problem. I needed to get married.

As I approached my 20s and my first company began to take off I started to face pressure at home to get married, the only problem was I didn’t quite fancy the candidates that were lined up for me! I quickly came to realise it wasn’t just me. The traditional routes of getting married no longer made sense to the millions of Muslims who call Britain home and who were seeking a life partner who shared their religious worldview. In other words, I didn’t want to marry a woman I didn’t know, from a country I barely knew. I wasn’t alone and thus SingleMuslim.com was born.

Fast forward almost 20 years and our website, which began in a small room on top of the pizza shop I worked in, is now responsible for over 100,000 people finding their life partners, including me!

Earlier this year we passed the momentous 1 million-mark in UK registrations (not forgetting a million more across the world,) a little maths from our tech gurus, and we’ve worked out that that equates to over half of all Muslims in Britain aged between 16 and 60! The market penetration has been beyond my wildest imaginations, with SingleMuslim being the largest Muslim-run website in the country. It’s been this success that was able to drive the phenomenal growth and impact of our global award-winning humanitarian work.

It’ll probably surprise you to know, however, that to date, perhaps one of my greatest achievements so far was standing at the back of a small meeting room in central London at the tail end of last year, listening to a presentation at the annual iDate conference. The speaker was presenting the latest statistics and trends in the dating/matrimonial industry as leaders from across the sector nibbled on biscuits and networked with one another. My interest was suddenly piqued when I saw our SingleMuslim logo on the screen.

At no point were we contacted or informed about the presentation, the speaker had done his research and was simply presenting his findings. Under the heading, ‘Top 10 UK Websites with greatest online traffic,’ there listed as number 8 was SingleMuslim.com! It was a remarkable moment of affirmation. None of the other companies listed on those slides were ‘niche’ services, rather they catered for wide segments of the entire ‘single’ market. Two decades of hard work and our company was making ripples at the highest level of the industry.

Our name came up a few more times and was competing alongside industry-giants such as Tinder, eHarmony and Match.com, despite their millions of funding and hundreds of staff, our small ‘SingleMuslim family’ has been able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best in our technical know-how, user-experience and marketing power.

What stood out to many at that conference was our independence from external agencies. Taking inspiration from Steve Jobs, we ensure that all of our work, design, application development, security etc. is fully managed in-house. It made me very proud to know that our staff were competing and excelling at the highest of levels and knowing how much more we have in the pipes fills me with excitement about the future. It was deeply flattering to later see the big dating-giants praise our successes and talk about their failed attempts to try and penetrate the British Muslim market.

A couple months later with we were further honoured to take home the Global iDate ‘Best Niche Site’ Award 2018 in Miami. On reflection, I’m reminded that ultimately, it is our authenticity, dedication to excellence and perhaps our nimbleness too that has afforded us our industry-leading status.

The success of SingleMuslim.com is rooted in our providing an effective digital solution to a social crisis that still plagues Muslim communities to this day. Through embracing cultural innovation and technology we’ve provided a home for British Muslims who are comfortable with their hybrid identities and furthermore, we’ve proved that anyone can be the change they want to see, even if all you have is a store room above a tiny pizza shop in a tiny Yorkshire town.

Adeem Younis

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Pounding Poverty with Amir Khan in The Gambia

Growing up, I doubt I could have located The Gambia on a map, let alone imagine that one day I would call this small strip of West African coast a home from home. As Penny Appeal’s work in Pakistan began to take off, we understood that there was so much more to do around the world. Although poverty looks different in different places, its root causes are remarkably similar and with our growing team of development experts we set about developing Penny Appeal’s global strategy, with our hearts set firmly on West Africa.

Our relief efforts have always been two-pronged, to work in the short to medium term in immediately offering welfare and aid but also to strategically work in the medium to long term, creating sustainable solutions that help bring communities out of poverty once and for all.

Adeem

Through past experiences and connections, we knew The Gambia to be one of Africa’s poorest nations, ranking 172 out of 186 countries on Earth, the poverty is widespread with approximately three quarters of the rural population classified as poor or extremely poor. Thus, The Gambia soon became home to a number of Penny Appeal’s poverty-cycle-busting interventions, many of which were pioneered in Pakistan.

As our work was growing, so too was our reach to communities in the UK and this is when we connected with boxing champion, Amir Khan. Having one foot in the ring and the other firmly planted in his career as a humanitarian, the Olympic-medallist took a keen interest in our work around the world and in particular sought to invest in longer term solutions to serving those in need.

Sitting down with the dedicated team at the Amir Khan Foundation and our Penny Appeal staff, we went about designing a larger-scale, sustainable solution to tackling poverty in the Gambia. Finally, this week, after 3 years of blood, sweat and tears, we were honoured to attend the official completion of “The Medina” – Gambia’s state of the art ‘Orphan Village’

The project represents a 7-figure sum investment into serving generations of impoverished children in West Africa and creating jobs for dozens of local staff. “The Medina” is the first of many Penny Appeal complexes that seek to build communities from the ground up, offering the high impact interventions that very genuinely and holistically transform lives for the better.

The Medina Orphan Village contains 10 Orphan Homes, with each home able to cater for 10 orphan children, thus reaching a maximum capacity of 100 vulnerable children at any given time. Each Oprhan Home will also have a dedicated foster mother who is trained to care for the children as if they were her own. The eco-friendly secure complex has been built to the highest possible standards, with solar panels used to light the facility and power the heating and cooling systems. The Medina also contains a Masjid, herb garden, medical clinic, outdoor play yard and an admin block which now serves as a hub for Penny Appeal’s extensive West Africa development portfolio.

It has been one of the highlights of my life as a humanitarian to see this Orphan Complex become a reality and it stands a testament to the incredible generosity of the donors and supporters of both Penny Appeal and the Amir Khan Foundation. Of course, it would not have been possible without our incredible team on the ground led by the inimitable Atabou Aidara, the CEO of Penny Appeal West Africa, who has dedicated his life to serving those in need across his home country and beyond.

Finally, I would like to give a very special thanks to our patron and friend, Amir Khan. His career as a boxer and much-loved British celebrity has only been surpassed by his passion and dedication to humanitarian work. It would be easy for him to simply sign a cheque to a charity and then revel in the great work that he has enabled, but that’s not the way of the champ! Just days after his last knock-out win, Amir was on tour with Penny Appeal UK and the Amir Khan Foundation, raising crucial funds for another important campaign. He has dedicated so much of his personal time to raise funds and awareness, as well as taking an active role in overseeing how the funds are spent, rolling his sleeves up and not being shy to get his hands dirty with hard work!

In true humanitarian spirit, Amir is already talking to us about our next ‘Medina’ Orphan Complex, so watch this space! Be sure to check out our videos from our recent trip and get in touch if you’d like to be involved in this or in future projects and trips!

Adeem Younis

Founder of the UK’s largest Muslim website SingleMuslim.com and chairman of Britain’s fastest-growing Muslim-led charity Penny Appeal, award-winning entrepreneur and humanitarian making a difference around the world.

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Prince Charles’ 70th Buckingham Palace Birthday Bash

Now, there are birthday parties and then there are BIRTHDAY parties. Six months before his actual birthday, celebrations for Prince Charles, the future King of Britain, are already underway and somehow, I found myself in Buckingham Palace enjoying the festivities and avoiding the wafts of delicious food that was being served throughout the day.

It was my fourth time at Buckingham Palace and each time I have to pinch myself when I’m here. It’s a far cry from my familiar haunts in inner-city Wakefield but despite the opulence and majesty of Royal Gardens, the day was a celebration of Prince Charles’ charitable achievements that had brought us together.

I was honoured to be invited on behalf of the British Asian Trust, to whom Prince Charles is a founding patron. As with my previous trips to the palace I was expecting to catch a glimpse of a Royal or two but I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in face-to-face with the man himself.

He faced me fully and was genuinely engaged in the brief, but rich conversation we had. We spoke about Ramadan and fasting long summer days, the work of the British Asian Trust and Mosaic, another charity that the Prince has launched and with whom I have had the recent pleasure of working with. He was quite concerned with our iftar plans and made sure all the Muslims in attendance went home with a packet of Buckingham Palace’s finest royal biscuits!

It’s easy to think of the Royal Family as aloof and out of touch but the incredible legacy of the charity work has left me inspired. Prince Charles is responsible for literally hundreds of millions of pounds of charity work, countless number of initiatives that simple wouldn’t have happened if he didn’t take a personal interest.

Being above the politics afford the Prince a unique position to direct the rich and powerful to important causes and campaigns that they might not otherwise be connected to. It may come as a surprise to some, but the Prince has an incredible connection to Muslim communities, personally propelling projects like the Young Muslim Leadership Programme which runs with the University of Oxford and the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies and Mosaic, which engaged young Muslims from disadvantaged backgrounds and raises their aspirations as well as supporting Muslim prisoners in their re-entry to society.

It’s strange to think this man that I spent a few minutes with will one day be King of our country. As British citizens we will all, technically, be his subjects and it’s reassuring to know that humanitarian work, both home and abroad, is a passion that I share with him and the spirit in which he will shape our country.

There are few people in the world who could get away with a birthday party six months before the big day, but if it’s celebrating the difference we are making for others, then party on I say, cake for iftar anyone?

Adeem Younis

 

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Meghan & Harry – A modern day fairy-tale?

Just a week ago the new besotted Royal couple was exchanging rings in front of perhaps one of the biggest TV audiences in history. As much as I’m gutted they didn’t meet on SingleMuslim.com (I’ll have to hold out for Prince George), it is nonetheless a wedding that will go down in history+ for more reasons than one.

As a British Muslim, immersed in the world of matchmaking, I was struck by the story of these star-crossed lovers and found myself a little caught up in the Royal Wedding fever and was honoured to catch a glimpse of the couples at their first official Royal engagement. As I listened to Prince Harry address the crowd sprawled out across Buckingham Palace’s beautiful gardens, I had to remind myself how far away this place was from my inner-city upbringing in Wakefield. Now, there’s a time and space to think critically about the role of the monarchy in modern-day nation-states, notwithstanding all of that, I wanted to reflect on what we might be able to learn about this blossoming love.

To start with, a friend of the newly anointed Duchess of Sussex reflected on the way humanitarian work had brought the couple together in the early stages of Meghan and Harry’s relationship. “I remember when Meghan told me about Botswana,” said Janina Gavankar, in an interview with Good Morning America. “I loved how she was… pleasantly surprised. Like, this boy is actually just doing this for real. This is not some flouncy trip. He really means it…They fell in love with nothing around them… No frills. No bells and whistles. All they had was each other, doing good work in a place where nobody was watching them. They did that separately. Imagine what they can do together.”

How incredible. She was drawn to him not just for what he does but the sincerity by which he does it. This theme of charity has stayed with the couple, with Kensington Palace thanking all the well-wishers and guests who came to the wedding asking that “anyone who might wish to mark the occasion of their wedding considers giving to charity, instead of sending a gift.” – with the couple personally choosing a selection of charities that represent a range of issues that they are passionate about.

What an incredible foundation to build a relationship on.

Now, let’s consider the couple themselves. Both have wrestled with tumultuous childhoods, with Harry tragically losing his mother when he was just 12 years old and Meghan dealing with her parents’ divorce when she was just 6. Meghan, being of mixed-race, is three years older than Harry and a divorcee herself.

Let’s be real. How many families, in our communities, would at the very least frown at the idea of their son, their precious youngest baby, marrying a divorcee, older than him and of mixed ethnic origin (not to mention her parents are divorced too.) I’ve known young couples torn apart because their families didn’t come from the same village in Pakistan. I don’t need to share the shock stories, we’re all too familiar with them.

As much as I’m comforted that many young Muslims are moving beyond the cultural baggage inherited from generations before, with more and more open to embracing other ethnicities, seeing past divorce and less apprehensive about differences in age, we still, nonetheless, have a long way to go. Ironically people label this as being progressive, but it’s only going forward because somehow or another we’ve gone so far in the wrong direction. Look at the examples we find in our tradition. Many Muslims have taken to social media, and perhaps rightly so, have reminded us of how this marriage bares resemblance to the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing upon him. He too married a woman older than himself, who had previously been married but unlike Harry, she was wealthier than him and she initiated the proposal.

My dear single guys, your princess might not be what you or your family had imagined. Perhaps she’s a pearl that could only be cracked open through the painful grip of a divorce. Maybe the perfect woman for you is a little older, did the 15 years Khadijah had over the Prophet, peace, and blessing upon him, make her less perfect for him? Prince Harry was probably one of the most eligible bachelors in the world, with women across the world swooning at his feet. He had the pick of the bunch and he chose substance over style, and in truth, he got both.

My dear single ladies, don’t sell yourself short. If you’ve experienced difficult times, consider them preparation for the Prince who will sweep you off your feet (you may need to direct him a little at first, however!) Work on refining your character and fall in love with yourself before you hope someone to truly fall in love with you. Keep digging for gold and who knows, you might just end up with some ginger! Now’s that’s a modern day fairy-tale by anyone’s standard!

I pray that God helps strengthens and pours His Light and Blessings into our marriages and for those who are single, may you find that perfect partner who you can live in tranquillity with, just as Allah intended, and the love and mercy that He puts between us and our partners be a shining sign of His Love and Mercy for us. Ameen.

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SalaamGiving new platform for Muslims this Ramadan 2018

Adeem

With Ramadan just around the corner, I’m reminded of a deeply profound saying of our Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him, who said: “He whose two days are equal, is a loser.”

It’s a pretty bold reminder. Every day should build on the last. Staying the same is effectively going backwards. Every day must improve on the last in some way or form, not least in our spiritual endeavours. Likewise, week on week, month on month and year on year, we should be taking stock of what we’ve accomplished and seeking to advance ourselves and the work we do.

Adeem

In the charity sector, Ramadan is our busiest time of the year and it can be tempting to simply rehash tried and tested events, programmes and campaigns. But staying the same is going backwards and what has made Penny Appeal unique is our eagerness to embrace new challenges and shift paradigms in our sector and beyond.

In that spirit, I’m especially honoured to present to you a project close to my heart and something we’ve been working doubly hard to launch ahead of Ramadan – introducing SalaamGiving – the ultimate Muslim crowdfunding platform.

Colleagues from across the charity world will have noted how the giving patterns of donors is changing, with crowdfunding now one of the fastest growing forms of online donation. Over the past year we have been fortunate to spend some time bouncing ideas with the team at industry-leading tech-giant JustGiving.com. Their story is incredible, having amassed a community of over 22 million donors who have collectively raised over $4.5 billion for charities across the world.

Key to that success has been the vision and leadership of co-founder Anne-Marie Huby. She set up JustGiving around the same time I set up SingleMuslim.com and her ‘tech-for-good’ model mirrors our experience of driving sustainable philanthropy through entrepreneurship. What was incredible about our exchanges was how willing Anne-Marie and her team were to explore new ideas and push through frontiers that they hadn’t considered before – it’s no surprise they have led this industry for as long as they have.

Together we began by exploring some of the data that the JustGiving team was able to extrapolate from tens of millions of donations made on their platform. As we expected, and much to their surprise, the JustGiving found their Muslim donors gave significantly more to charitable causes and campaigns than their non-Muslim counterparts.

salaamgiving_20k - soft launch

Penny Appeal alone raises millions of pounds. When you consider all the other Muslim charities in the UK (and beyond) we learned that JustGiving has a massive sub-community of Muslim donors, but no mechanism to communicate with them effectively and direct them to campaigns and causes that may be of interest. When you consider the hundreds of millions of pounds that Muslims donate year in and year out, it seemed like a massively untapped opportunity. So, alongside friends across the charity spectrum, we sat with Anne-Marie and her team to design an all-new crowdfunding platform tailored for Muslim communities and powered by JustGiving – and together we are proud to present: SalaamGiving.com

Our mission at SalaamGiving is to make donating as easy and as meaningful as spreading the peaceful greeting of ‘Salaam’. We’re drawing upon the expertise of the entire Muslim charity sector to launch life-saving campaigns to a dedicated community of donors, offering the most competitive rates and the best possible platform to help nurture, grow and inspire an ecosystem of Muslim giving.

There really is nothing like SalaamGiving out there at present and my sincere hope and prayer is that this new initiative will serve as a platform for a whole range of different charities and campaigns. And doubly-excited that this Ramadan we have an astounding £20,000 up for grabs (you heard it here first folks)! Every day of Ramadan there are cash prizes to be won for the best campaigns on SalaamGiving – raise the most that day and you win cash for your charity of choice! There are even special bonuses each weekend and a top prize of £10,000 for the page that raises the most by the 27th of Ramadan – so if you’re planning to support a charity, either by donating or fundraising, there’s no better place than SalaamGiving!

No two days are the same in our offices and we take that as a positive sign and a blessing. Our hope this Ramadan is not just to grow ourselves, but to be a springboard for others to grow too, and as we’re taught in our tradition, the best way to grow, is to give. Bismillah. Can’t wait for the blessed month to start!

(PS Visit SalaamGiving.com to learn more – if you’re interested in partnering up with us get in touch)!

Adeem Younis

Founder of the UK’s largest Muslim website SingleMuslim.com and chairman of Britain’s fastest-growing Muslim-led charity Penny Appeal, award-winning entrepreneur and humanitarian making a difference around the world.

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Digging Deeper: My London Marathon 2018 Reflections

They say when you run a marathon, you’re not running against other people and you’re not running against a time, rather, you’re running against the distance.

Training for and completing my second London Marathon has given me a lot of pause for thought. Running has been one of the most gruelling yet rewarding experiences of my life. I took it up initially as a personal challenge but remarkably, I’ve found the experience to be incredibly therapeutic. With all the hustle and bustle of work, home and everything in between, running has opened up for me a new head-space to reflect and process.

“Running has taught me to dig deeper into my body and squeeze out every morsel of energy I can muster, and I’ve also learnt to dig deeper into my consciousness. Like most people, I never thought I’d have it in me to run a marathon, but 26.2 miles and 6 hours or so later, my aching body is a sign of how we are all capable of remarkable things. I think to myself if I can go from someone who would only run from my living room to the dining room for dinner to someone completing multiple marathons, what else could I achieve? The impossible suddenly becomes possible.

The struggle, aches, sweat and sprains are all part of the process. When I first began training, breaking past the one-mile mark seemed insurmountable. But I learnt to fight through the pain. Learnt how to embrace it and be spurred on by it. Week on week I was able to speed past milestone after milestone and discover the sweetness really is in the struggle.

Our physical stamina, I’ve come to realise, is a reflection of our psychological stamina. If we can push our bodies to do more, we can push our minds even further. What’s possible socially, entrepreneurially, economically, politically – even spiritually – is limited

Yes, we will hit those mental roadblocks, but just like running through the pain, we will find the sweetness in the struggle. We can leverage the blood, sweat and tears to lay the foundations that transform the obstacles we face into stepping stones to future successes. Every entrepreneur knows this. We all face tough times and difficult decisions, we all make mistakes and fail, but they are aches and pains that come with running the distance. It’s not about other people and it’s not about racing against the clock, it’s about going the distance.

What’s amazing is each and each one of us is capable of this transformation. I’m so proud that this year we had 10 runners representing Penny Appeal at the London Marathon. Each of them have their own stories that have moved them to take part, wrestling with their demons and barriers to prove we all able to turn our minds and bodies around.

And of course, Penny Appeal’s Team Orange volunteers were out there on the tarmac. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the London Marathon is the ‘Spirit of London’ – the phenomenal atmosphere of hundreds of thousands of people, from all walks of life, coming together to applaud the tens of thousands of runners on the track. It’s the most exhilarating experience. The banners, the music, the singing, the screams of encouragement – in fact there isn’t a single stretch throughout the entire marathon where you won’t see members of the public cheering on the runners, congratulating the effort and commitment that each of us has made to reach get as far as we have. There simply isn’t anything like it on earth.

We called our London Marathon campaign “Dig Deep” – Digging deep into our minds and bodies to raise funds to dig deep into barren lands and install water wells for communities who consider access to clean water a rare luxury.

So, what are you waiting for? Dig into your pockets and donate to my fundraising page www.Justgiving.com/digdeepwithAdeem and if you think you can really dig deep, drop me a line and run the marathon with Penny Appeal next year. Then you’ll see exactly what it means to dig deep and experience London like you never have before.

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Adeem Younis

Adeem Younis

Founder of SingleMuslim.com and PennyAppeal.org