“The first day of school can be embarrassing for some of the kids, a reminder that they are different,” Bhawana Kamil of the Muslim American Society, told Mercury News.
“This is not just giving them stuff, it’s helping them feel that they’re on the same level as everyone else in the class, to give them confidence, and feel normal — something in their life is the same as the other kids.”
Sunday’s event is the Muslim American Society’s 10th annual Back to School Backpack Project, which aims to equip underprivileged and vulnerable children with the tools needed to go back to school just as prepared as their peers.
Volunteers worked in assembly-line fashion, with a line of products that young volunteers would pick up and put in the bag, before handing it over to older volunteers for a quality assessment to make sure nothing was missing or doubled.
Younger kids get the bright patterned bags, with crayons and glue sticks. Older kids get the black and grey backpacks with pens and pencils and file folders.
“Our community visibly seems to have a lot of wealth, but there is poverty in Silicon Valley, a big income gap,” said Kamil.
“These are for foster children, victims of domestic violence, refugees or just kids with families who have a hard time making ends meet.”
Based on volunteers’ help, the program has taught youth through example the benefits gleaned from generosity.
“I like helping other kids,” said Ayaan Sultan, who is approaching his 10th birthday and is already a veteran volunteer, having served as a bag assembler for about half his life.
“I like that we’re giving them things, sometimes people might laugh at them because they don’t have what other kids have.”
Sultan’s sister Zara had just turned 8 and her mother Faiza Ahmed said that made it a particularly good day to be generous.
“A birthday can be about more than receiving gifts,” said Ahmed.
“It can also be for giving a little. I think it makes them feel good to know that someone will be getting a backpack, even if they don’t know who that is.”