MSU law student creates a non-profit to give back to Michigan’s vulnerable communities

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)—Jousef Shkoukani struggled with COVID-19 when the pandemic began in 2020. During that crucial time, Shkoukani brainstormed ways to begin a non-profit to give back to Michigan’s struggling communities. 

“Now during 2020 and the global pandemic you have people in our communities who are hurting,” Shkoukani stated, “who are struggling, and really who need help and support from their neighbors.” 

Shkoukani’s dream ended up becoming his ultimate reality with his nonprofit ‘Unified under Hope.’ They work to support Michigan’s vulnerable communities by providing economic and emergency relief to those in need. Volunteers have worked with local hospitals to provide emergency equipment to hospital staff to ensure safety in their fight against COVID-19.

“Unified under Hope” has raised $20,000 in donations and all of their proceeds go completely to the community. 

“That all came from crowd-funding,” Shkoukani said, “that came from the men and women who were sitting at home during a COVID pandemic and were still contributing to helping their neighbors in need.”

Plus, their vision statement says they want to create a more fair Michigan regarding its healthcare, education, and social sectors. A unique aspect about this nonprofit is its entire team of volunteers comprises a diverse group of students. The chief operating officer Ayah Koujane manages and organizes the various tasks they do in the community. This includes care packages under their UUH necessities drive, and they are even starting up mentorship and supplemental tutoring to minority-based public schools. 

“If it’s one human helping another human regardless if it’s the same community or not, or same ethnicity or not,” Koujane exclaimed, “we really look at it from the big picture standpoint we’re all humans and if we all have the means to help each other, we can slowly eradicate the problems that we have poverty, homelessness, hunger, world-hunger…  and most importantly our own communities suffering.” 

This weekend ‘Unified under Hopes’ team of volunteers will hand out care packages to over 50 refugee families in need. Koujane says when their team creates care packages they look at basic household necessities like; dish soap, hand sanitizer, face masks, laundry detergent, under-garments, and feminine hygiene products. 

Shkoukani emphasizes these necessities are usually over-looked and people struggling usually never say they need certain products. 

So far, Unified under Hope has helped communities like Flint, Oakland County, Wayne County, and even Washtenaw County. 

“As a first-generation child of immigrants I know their journey was difficult,” Koujane said, “so being able to help any family going through this same situation… I’m there.”

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