Headshot photo of Najah Bazzy

TEDxDetroit to Feature Humanitarian With Surgical Strategy to Lift Women Out of Poverty

Najah Bazzy is driven by the question “why.”

Her curiosity started her career in medicine, led her to start a nonprofit organization out of her home and continues to inspire her work to break the cycle of poverty in metro Detroit.

The Dearborn humanitarian and founder of Zaman International has been featured as a 2019 CNN Hero, and will be one of the speakers at the 11th TEDxDetroit event Nov. 6 at the Masonic Temple.

The event celebrates ideas worth spreading with speakers including former Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, ‘Rehab Addict’ host Nicole Curtis, voice actor Rob Paulsen, Chemical Bank Vice President of Municipal Banking Operations Portia Powell and Grammy-award-winning composer and record producer Luis Resto.

When Bazzy was five years old, an army-green surgical kit stashed inside her family’s closet called to her.

Leftover from her father’s time as a U.S. Army medic, Bazzy would sneak away to crack open the purse-shaped kit and admire the instruments. She dreamed of becoming a physician. But as an Arab-American woman growing up in Dearborn, attending medical school was not an option available to her. A career in nursing was achievable.

Working as a transcultural clinical nurse specialist in 1996, Bazzy was visiting with a family whose infant was dying. The family’s poverty shocked Bazzy: instead of a refrigerator, they had a cooler. Instead of a crib, the baby was dying in a laundry basket filled with clean towels.

Bazzy turned to her family and community members to help; collecting furniture, food, clothing and household goods. The grassroots effort to help those in need, ran out of Bazzy’s van for 15 years, slowly became Zaman International. Since formally becoming a nonprofit in 2004, the organization has helped hundreds of thousands of families and now operates out of a 40,500-square-foot facility in Inkster.

At first the organization was helping refugee families. But while some refugee families were stabilizing after a year of aid, the families with a single woman as the head of the household were struggling to survive. That’s when Bazzy realized that breaking the cycle of poverty starts by supporting these women.

These moms are the beating heart of their family, she said. Homelessness, hunger, lack of shelter and education creates blockages in opportunities, Bazzy said.

Zaman International gives these mothers a chance at life by opening these arteries.

“We can’t solve for all of hunger, but we can bypass that clogged artery by getting food on the table,” Bazzy said. “We have learned how to bypass the clogs caused by poverty and get good circulation back into the heart of the family. We help her stand up and be strong – so she can raise her children with hope.”

Over time Zaman International has added vocational training and literacy programs. The organization also helps people in crisis around the world.

“You have to take care of the people who are around you, but you can’t forget the people who are beyond you,” Bazzy said.

Bazzy said she won’t be satisfied until she’s able to help women break the cycle of poverty for themselves and for their children – and that it will likely take a significant increase in the minimum hourly wage in order to make that happen.

TEDxDetroit is 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6, at the Masonic Temple at 500 Temple in Detroit. All TEDxDetroit tickets are available online, along with the most up-to-date information, at www.TEDxDetroit.com.

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Photo credit: Courtesy of TEDxDetroit

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