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Meet Our Founder – Maeen Ali

Maeen in Pakistan, January 2023/Muslim Officers Society (MOS)

The Start of “Baking A Better World”

Humanitarian, social entrepreneur, and human rights advocate, Maeen Ali co-founded Humanity for Relief and Development in 2018 to alleviate those suffering from food insecurity around the globe. 

Growing up in Eyfauaa-ah, Yemen, as a child Maeen experienced food insecurity first-hand, where just one piece of bread per person had to last all day. If he lost it, then he had to wait until the next day until he was able to eat again. This experience influenced him to give back to struggling communities that were unable to obtain proper nourishment.

The first seven years of Maeen’s life in Yemen were spent in a constant state of hunger, not knowing when his next meal would be. If a villager missed their meal, they would have to wait until the next day to eat, and with no refrigeration in Yemen none of the food could be preserved. Many of his neighbors struggled with food insecurity, where poverty was so widespread that it became normalized as part of their daily lives.

When Maeen was seven years old, he moved with his mother and three siblings to the US to join his father who had moved in the early 1970s. The transition proved to be difficult: aside from the cultural shock of coming to America and not knowing English, he was put into a public school where no teachers spoke Arabic.

Despite these challenges, Maeen learned English quickly, earning scholarships and graduating high school in 1999. Maeen then began the chapter in his life after high school, marrying his wife and having four kids. He went on to become a successful entrepreneur, opening a real estate business while he was working for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority as a bus operator.
 

Reimagining Success

Throughout all this, Maeen never forgot his roots. In his free time, Maeen volunteered at a local Muslim community center, making and providing food to those less fortunate in Midtown, Manhattan. 

This experience inspired Maeen to help the people of his hometown, Eyfauaa-ah. With the help of Maeen’s family and friends coming together to fundraise, they supplied food to the village and built water tanks to provide safe drinking water to the community. Soon after, they fundraised for the Kuwait Hospital in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, to help those suffering from leukemia, and to Dar Al-Shawkany Orphanage to help renovate facilities.

Tragically, in 2017, Maeen received the news that nobody would want to get. His brother sadly died in the war in Yemen, leaving behind five children and his wife. 

His brother’s death was a turning point, leading him to reimagine success as helping others. Determined not to let his brother’s family go hungry and embarking on a journey to live a life for others, Maeen built a bakery to provide for the family and the first Mercy Bakery was born.

The bakery was founded on the belief that nobody should go without access to the most basic form of sustenance – bread.

Following the success, neighboring communities started asking for their own bakeries in their neighborhoods. This led him to establish Humanity for Relief and Development (HRD), creating a global movement of giving. Maeen used all of his savings to establish HRD, using his car as the nonprofit’s first office and his personal phone as the office computer from 2019 to 2021. Often his car battery would die, leaving summer and winter days especially hard to work in. Nevertheless, he persevered.

International Expansion

Today, through his hard work and the generosity of thousands of supporters, Maeen’s vision has been realized. Following the success of Mercy Bakeries in Yemen, HRD and Maeen expanded into providing warm food along with bread, hence Mercy Kitchen was born. 

After seeing the impact that the bakeries and kitchens had on the people of Yemen, Maeen had his eye on international expansion. HRD now proudly boasts bakeries and kitchens in Turkey, Pakistan, Honduras and Peru. 

Maeen’s personal experience shapes HRD’s innovative model that creates a genuine connection with those that are helped at the Mercy Bakeries and Mercy Kitchens. His entrepreneurial spirit has not only created a lifeline to those struggling to obtain food, but created a self-sustaining means of doing so. The bakeries and kitchens are run by the community and for the community: locals can partake in making the food and serving it to others. The people we serve are the heart of HRD, providing hope to many. 

Over the past five years, HRD has distributed millions of loaves of bread, helping to feed thousands of families in some of the world’s most impoverished communities. None of which would have been possible without the generous donations of its supporters. 

Together with your help, HRD can continue to provide loaves of bread and warm meals to communities around the world, ensuring that nobody goes hungry.

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