Donor Profile: The Al Rashid Education Foundation

Public health scholarship program recognizes the value of public health professionals, supports community leadership development.

05 January 2023

Having successfully provided preschool-to-Grade-12 education to more than 1,400 students at the Edmonton Islamic Academy annually since 1987, members of the Al Rashid Education Foundation (AREF) knew that the logical next step was to find a way to support their students who continue on to post-secondary education.

“We wanted to expand the horizon for the students,” explains AREF Board of Trustees Dr. Sameeh Salama. “For AREF, this included considering the needs of society at large, and particularly for the Muslim community, including non-traditional professional fields, in order to support the development of community leaders and influencers.” 

Fortunately for the University of Alberta School of Public Health, AREF recognized that public health was an important field of study even before the pandemic gripped the globe, putting high profile public health officials in the media on a daily basis.  

“In the public's eye, public health wasn’t appreciated. But when COVID hit, it became dinner table conversation,” explains Salama. “People started to realize the importance of public health, and the value of studying public health.”

COVID-19 may have increased the profile of public health professionals, but the scope of work extends beyond making recommendations to combat viruses. 

This led the foundation’s members to approach then-dean Kue Young about a partnership that could raise awareness of public health while supporting the study of public health within the Muslim community. The result was the Al Rashid Education Foundation Scholarship, established in 2016, as a partnership between the U of A School of Public Health and AREF. 

This scholarship supports a School of Public Health graduate student who is a member of the U of A Muslim Students’ Association and has a demonstrated track record of academic and community partnership.  

The 2022 recipient, Javairia Kabir, intends to use her public health education to promote holistic well-being through the use of research analysis, policy reform, program development and public outreach. “I appreciate that the program provides a strong base of knowledge for a broad range of public health roles,” she explains. 

Kabir decided to pursue a master’s degree in public health after working in mental health advocacy to help a loved one living with mental illness. That experience, combined with previous roles — a medical office assistant in an underserved family clinic and a volunteer for organizations addressing health inequities — led her to pursue her studies. I was most interested in enacting macro-level change to encourage health promotion, which led me to apply for the Master of Public Health program at the University of Alberta,” she explains. 

“We've celebrated five years and now we have entered the sixth,” says Salama.“We always use our relationship with the School of Public Health as an example of a successful partnership.”

“I want to thank the volunteers and community donors who have come forward year after year with donations,” adds Salama. “All of our funds are generated through donors from our community who believe in the value of education.” 

“I could not be more grateful to receive this scholarship,” says Kabir. “The acknowledgment it has given my efforts has encouraged me to continue working hard and striving for excellence. I want to thank the Al Rashid Education Foundation and its supporters for providing these scholarships. It is a tremendous aid to the community and motivates students to tap into their potential and make strides in their respective fields.”