Najah Bazzy: Zaman International makes a worldwide difference

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Najah Bazzy always prays for her neighbor before herself. She says it’s because “we have a human responsibility to care for one another.”

Working as a transcultural critical care nurse for years, she visited an Iraqi refugee family with a dying 3-month-old infant and realized they were struggling to survive.

“At the house, they had absolutely nothing. There was no refrigerator, no stove, no crib, the baby was in a laundry basket and I was so devastated by that. I decided that it wasn’t going to happen on my watch," she said.

Bazzy of Canton Township left her six-figure salary to build Zaman International in 1996. The Inkster-based nonprofit empowers marginalized women and children to break the cycle of extreme poverty.

For 15 years she helped many families while solely operating out of her home and a minivan.

Today, Zaman has a 40,000-square-foot building with rows of clothes, food and furniture, and locally has aided 300,000 people.

In 2019, she was recognized as a Top Ten CNN Hero, which highlighted Zaman’s growth from a grassroots team of volunteers to a world-class organization with a global reach that has helped 2.5 million people in 20 countries since 2010. 

Zaman is an Arabic and Hebrew word that means "time." Because she spent that one time with that one family and baby, she has never stopped loving her neighbors in need.

More recently, Zaman has become an organization that transitions families from a hand-out to a hands-on model. Bazzy's focus goes beyond health to economic empowerment and vocational training. The organization has also launched an infant burial program and focus on international humanitarian relief.

During the pandemic Zaman is a staple in Wayne County, providing thousands with food through curbside pickup. A week before Thanksgiving, more than 700 cars spanned to Beech Daily as they handed out halal turkeys and produce for families.

Growing up in the south end of Dearborn, Bazzy's family was on the cusp of poverty but didn't know it because the neighborhood was full of love. She says the close-knit immigrant community is where she learned to love her neighbor.

"I deeply care about our humanity," said Bazzy, who is spiritual and has completed Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. "Zaman is a beacon of hope. I just hope to fulfill my capacity and fulfill my purpose before I take my last breath. And I think about that every single day."

Dr. Nishath Hakim, former board member and colleague of 30 years, said Bazzy's passions were instilled in her training as a nurse but also stems from her childhood.

"It comes from her youth, where she used to help members in the community, but especially her special-needs brother who suffers from muscular dystrophy," Hakim said.

Najah Bazzy, founder of Inkster-based Zaman International, inside the non-profit's thrift store in Inkster, November 19, 2020. The humanitarian organization attends to the basic health needs of women, children and refugees in Metro Detroit and throughout the world.

"Najah is always there to serve, but she has this capacity of using her health background with end-of-life care to make an impactful difference. Educating the health care community about cultural norms that could be different from person to person. She starts off as Mother Teresa and, in my view, goes beyond," Hakim said.

Sumreen Ahmad, director of global change management for Accenture, said she met Bazzy by the grace of God 10 years ago.

“I was in a bad place in my own life and at a time when I needed her more than she needed me,” Ahmad said. “She’s one of those people that reminds you of the good in the world.”

Zaman holds dignity at the core of everything and in doing so, she’s brought to life an idea that "we don’t need another hero in the world, but hundreds of heroic acts," Ahmad said.

"Instead of anchoring on the ideals that the systems are broken, she recognizes that we need to care for those that are impacted by the systems and embraces a complete solution," Ahmad said. "Her mantra is to give more than you get from this world. She's brought so many with her on this journey, it has become a legacy."

Hajji Najah Bazzy

Age: 60

Occupation: Founder and CEO of Zaman International

Education: Nursing degree from Madonna University

Family: Husband, Allie Bazzy, of more than 35 years, four children, four grandchildren

Why honored: Bazzy has attended to the basic health needs of women, children and refugees, totaling more than 300,000 in Metro Detroit and 2.5 million people throughout the world. Her focus goes beyond health to economic empowerment and vocational training.


Twitter: @SarahRahal_