COLUMBUS (WCMH) – MY Project USA, the largest Muslim social services organization in Ohio, has opened its first Youth Empowerment Center and a mid-Ohio market in the Hilltop Area.

The Founder of MY Project USA, Zerqa Abid, said many played a role in opening the new center.

One of those factors, Abid said, is that the Hilltop neighborhood struggled to have easy access to food, something she experienced firsthand. Secondly, the location will help immigrants and refugees seeking a safe space.

“MY Project USA and this center is a gift to the Muslim community to the City of Columbus and our neighbors,” Abid said. “This is an emblem of our Muslim faith engrained in community service, our love for our neighbors, and our shared humanity.”

As an immigrant herself, Abid said there is a language barrier and cultural differences that not everyone knows how to tackle.

“There’s a large number of Somali, Muslim, refugees and other Somali refugees that live in this neighborhood,” she said. “They can see us, they can relate to us, and they can trust us.”

A lot of the families the center aims to help are coming from traumatic situations, which is why Abid wants to ensure they could also come for help to get access to jobs and education.

“So we work on food, then we work on home, then we work on safety and security, and then clothes and whatever else they need,” she said.

Abid said that in order to children in the community, parents need to be taken care of, too. She said many families have had education banned in their native countries, and they need people to educate them on how the system works here, especially for their children.

Resident Uzair Qidwai said he didn’t realize the extent of the seriousness of this until he became a MY Project USA volunteer.

“As a college student, my parents have always pushed me to do my best,” he said. “Coming here, we see that a lot of parents don’t push them to do the same. I want to be able to make a difference in this.”

Qidwai now serves on the board of MY Project USA.

The Youth Empowerment Center, located at 3275 Sullivant Avenue, is open Mondays-Saturdays, and the market is open Tuesday-Thursdays and Saturdays. All resources are free for anyone who comes to the center.