SCM Medical Missions


3806 Whitman Ave N
Seattle WA 98103


+1 206-545-7307

Category: Community Events

Community Events

Ethnic Heritage Council Award Announced

SCM is very proud to announce that our CEO, Rita Zawaideh, had been awarded the Spirit of Liberty Award by the Ethnic Heritage Council to ethnic community leaders and artists. Congratulation to Rita on your award, it is well-deserved!

Ethnic Heritage Council announces
Recipients of the 2020 Annual EHC Awards
to Ethnic Community Leaders and Artists

The Ethnic Heritage Council (EHC) is proud to announce this year’s award recipients, to be honored at EHC’s 40th Anniversary celebration. The special event is rescheduled to Spring 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, date to be determined. The awards program with annual meeting is EHC’s major annual event. The award recipients represent extraordinary achievements and contributions to the region’s cultural and community life.

Rita Zawaideh
2020 “Spirit of Liberty” Award

Established in 1986 and given to a naturalized citizen who has made a significant contribution to his or her ethnic community and ethnic heritage, as well as to the community at large.

For decades, Rita Zawaideh has been an advocate and change-maker on behalf of Middle Eastern and North African communities in the United States and around the world. She is a “one-person community information center for the Arab community,” according to the thousands who have benefited from her activism and philanthropy. “The door to Rita’s Fremont office is always open,” says Huda Giddens of Seattle’s Palestinian community, adding that Rita’s strength is her ability to see a need and answer it. “She doesn’t leave a stone unturned in search of a solution,” says Giddens.

Rita was born in Jordan and grew up in Seattle. Through the years she has maintained close ties to the Arab world, as well as to the Arab-American communities throughout the U.S. She founded the Salaam Cultural Museum (SCM) to raise awareness of Arab American cultures and provide support to refugees and immigrants both locally and internationally. Rita is owner and founder of Caravan-Serai Tours, a Seattle travel agency specializing in the Middle East and North Africa. Through her travel agency network she has organized volunteer trips and donation drives for refugees in the Middle East and North Africa since the 1980s. She often labors into the wee hours of the night to solve a person’s problem, putting that person in touch with a lawyer, a city council member, a school principal, a church contact, perhaps even someone who lives on the other side of the country. No one is turned away.

Leader in Resettlement of Newcomers. When the first influx of Iraqi refugees arrived in Seattle in the mid-2000s, Rita raised money to support them and helped them feel welcome. Since the beginning of the war in Syria in 2011, she has advocated for refugee resettlement in Washington State, succeeding in welcoming families as well as members of persecuted populations, such as the Middle Eastern LGBTQ community. Rita marshals the efforts of vast networks of resettlement agencies, community organizations, activists and volunteers, arranging donations or fundraisers to provide school supplies, winter clothing and furniture while also assisting them in learning English and finding jobs. In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, Rita anticipated backlash and led the formation of AACC, the Arab American Community Coalition. AACC was instrumental in preventing hate crime escalations, unnecessary profiling by police, and calming nerves in the community. The organization conducted cultural sensitivity training for local law enforcement personnel and helped police and the community better communicate and respect one another. She established a hotline, staffed with Arabic speakers to ensure protection of civil rights. As the tensions pointed to the possibility of war with Iraq, Rita helped the Arab community mobilize against the war and sponsored visits to Baghdad by members of Congress. During the war, she coordinated shipments of much-needed medical supplies into Baghdad, arranging for the Jordanian army to deliver them to families in parts of Iraq where other international organizations were unable to reach civilians.

Leader in Cultural Affairs and International Service. Upon founding the non-profit Salaam Cultural Museum (SCM) in 1990, Rita began to employ Middle East and North African (MENA) immigrants, refugees and members of the MENA community to carry out relief programs. SCM also promotes local MENA artists and businesses, educating the wider Washington State community about the Middle East and North Africa through workshops and cultural events. Every year SCM organizes volunteer trips to the Middle East, sending shipping containers of medical supplies and clothing for distribution to refugee camps in Jordan. SCM was among the first organizations that went into Lesbos, Greece at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015. A new shelter and clinic for women and children on the island of Samos will be SCM’s 2020 project in Greece.

In 1990 Rita also was a key organizer of the first Seattle Arab Festival that brought eight Middle Eastern film directors to Seattle to screen and discuss their work. This led to the creation of Arab Film Distribution (AFD), which Rita founded to provide an outlet for Middle Eastern and North African filmmakers to showcase their work in the U.S. and to raise awareness of Arab culture and history outside the politicized news cycle.

In early 2020, as the novel coronavirus began to spread around the world, Rita knew it would have dire consequences for recently resettled refugees in Washington State as well as overseas. She jumped into action and began raising funds to help the local refugees with needs, such as rent, utilities, tuition and food, knowing they would be the first to lose income but not qualifying for state unemployment or other assistance. She also raised funds to buy and distribute food to Syrian refugees in Jordan. So far, due to Rita’s efforts, between the food drive and local refugee aid SCM has been able to disburse over $50,000 in pandemic relief assistance.

Elizabeth Abu-Haydar of Seattle’s Lebanese community said she arrived in Seattle with no contacts until she met Rita, who put her to work on various projects. In order to raise awareness of the plight of the Palestinian people like Elizabeth, she organized a support group and insisted that it include people from all faiths and beliefs and who shared a common passion for social justice for all people.

“Rita’s success lies in her ability to mobilize a network of volunteers and community groups,” says Owen Harris, volunteer and University of Washington graduate student, among those nominating Rita for the award. A project might include the Sikh Community, Arab-American community, local businesses such as Cost-less Furniture, Microsoft, Bridge Ministries, West Side Baby, BECU, Deseret Industries and Goodwill, refugee resettlement organizations such as the International Rescue Committee, nonprofits such as NW Immigrant Rights Project, religious organizations such as Jewish Family Services, Council on American-Islamic Relations, local churches and synagogues, students and professors from UW, law enforcement such as the Seattle Police department and private donors. “Rita is trusted and held in high esteem by people of different walks of life all over the world,” says Harris.

“She is truly deserving of the 2020 Spirit of Liberty Award.”

To read more about the awards given and their recipients, please visit the Ethnic Heritage Council’s website.

Community EventsHuman RightsRefugees

Love Beyond Borders

Please note that this event has been cancelled. The Seattle Men’s Chorus hopes to reschedule the event in the future and we will keep you posted. You can still donate to our New Life Fund to continue to aid the LGBTQ refugees. Thank you for your support during these difficult times.

On March 20 and 21, the Seattle Men’s Chorus will be performing at Benaroya Hall with a program that is intended to spotlight Seattle as an epicenter of an “underground railway” to bring LGBTQ people from areas where they face persecution and threat of death for being LGBTQ. Members of the Chorus have made it their life’s mission to conduct this pathway to safety.

SCM Medical Missions is joining with the Seattle Men’s Chorus to help provide a safe route to refugees, who find themselves in camps or other countries where they are persecuted, attacked and threatened, to obtain asylum in Canada through Rainbow Refugee. You can read more about the Seattle Men’s Chorus and their program, and we hope you will consider attending the concert. SCM will have a table in the lobby providing more information about SCM and our efforts to help protect the most vulnerable refugee populations such as LGBTQ people. You can also donate to our NEW LIFE FUND to help these refugees find safety.


Community Events

People of the Book

We’re excited to announce that Rita Zawaideh, of SCM Medical Missions will be part of a Post-Show Dialogue following the evening performance of People of the Book on Sept 15.

For more information about the performance and tickets, click here: https://acttheatre.org/season/2019-2/peopleofthebook/

About the play:

In this world premiere play by ACT 2018 Core Member, Yussef El Guindi, Jason returns from war to literary glory after writing an international best-seller, but his celebrity is underscored by his marriage to Madeeha, an Iraqi woman he saved. When he reunites with old friends, Amir and Lynn, questions emerge about the veracity of the book and its particular patriotic American gaze. Lust, jealousy, and personal politics bring things between old friends to a boiling point and we are asked “what is the expense of lies – personally and as a country?”

Also joining the after-show discussion is Jeb Wyman, of Antioch University Seattle. Hope to see you there!

Community EventsPalestineRefugees

Interfaith Iftar and Fundraiser Event in Seattle

Anera is hosting an interfaith Iftar and fundraiser in Seattle on Wednesday, May 30th at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral Skinner Auditorium in the Saint Nicholas Building. The event will feature Teen Vogue’s chef Abeer Naijar, who will be giving a cooking demonstration. While Ramadan and Iftar being the theme of the dinner, we invite and encourage communities of all faiths to attend in solidarity with refugees. All proceeds will go to sending food and relief to families in Palestine and Lebanon. This is vital to supporting those affected by the critical situation in Gaza.

More information is available on the Facebook event page: ANERA Iftar & Fundraiser Event

Come and enjoy a delicious dinner buffet of Middle Eastern food while supporting our friends in #Gaza and #Lebanon. We are featuring a young Palestinian-American chef, Abeer Najjer, who has been highlighted in Teen Vogue and was Lifetime Magazine’s selection to represent Illinois in HER AMERICA: 50 WOMEN, 50 STATES.

Abeer will talk about her experience as an immigrant, her passion for food, and Ramadan traditions. We’ll also get to enjoy one of her decadent desserts. Space is limited, please get your tickets today.
** Several vegetarian and non-vegetarian items available**

Proceeds from ticket sales will go to sending one month’s supply of food to families in Gaza & Lebanon.

This event is sponsored by Saint Mark’s Episcopal CathedralArab Alliance Chamber of Com of Wa StVoices For Palestine, Middle East Focus Group, and the Salaam Cultural Center.

All are welcome!

Community EventsHumanitarian AidRefugeesSyria

About the Musicians

About the Musicians

Here is a little bit about the musicians that will be featured for our benefit concert on September 24, 2017 at the Center for Spiritual Living (5801 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105). The doors open at 5pm and you can get your tickets by clicking here: BUY TICKETS

We hope you will join us! We will have children’s songs and songs of Syria in addition to the performances by the three main artists. Refreshments will be served and all proceeds will go to support SCM refugee programs.

Amal Alissa: Amal started her music journey at the early at age 4 in Syria playing piano and taking lessons where she played many concerts, after high school Amal took the professional route where she joined the High Institute Of Music in Damascus, a very high regarded music school in the Middle East, studied Piano as a student of Prof. Cynthia Alwadi and got her bachelor degree.
Amal was the soloist for the Syrian Symphony Orchestra where she played many concerts with different international conductors, and accompanied Choirs and many International Opera singers.

To continue pursuing her academic dreams, Amal moved to Lyon France to finish her graduate studies in the Conservatoire National De Region de Lyon where she earned her DPS in Piano and Harpsichord with Professor Marie-Annick Chamarande and Marie-Christiane Pinget.

Professor Bassam Bishara: Professor Bassam Bishara, musical Director, Composer, Oud (violin, Qanoun) and a Lead Vocal, was born in Rama-Upper Galilee, to a Palestinian music family. He started his music education at the Robin Conservatory in Haifa, and graduated from the music department of the Hebrew University. Bassam taught Middle Eastern music at the Music Academy in Jerusalem. He eventually went on to teach in private schools and formed a Middle Eastern Orchestra quickly becoming sought after throughout Palestine. In 1983, he was appointed Music Director for Alhakawati Theatre in Jerusalem, where his concerts, music and songs were dedicated to the Palestine cause. He also performed internationally as a soloist, blending tradition and innovation, and forging important musical links between the Middle East and the West, from traditional Arab compositions and arrangements to jazz, documentary films, and orchestral scores.

Bassam has received several awards: the “Award of Honor” for his achievements in linking traditional Arabic music and the music of the West; the “Jerusalem Encouragement Award” for his contribution to the revival of cultural heritage; the “Arabic Radio Broadcast Award” for his contribution in the revival of Folk songs of the land; and the “Arab Women Association Award” (London, England) for his role in reconstructing classical and traditional Arabic repertoires. He has performed in Canada, England, Germany, Palestine, Sweden, and at several universities in the United States. Bassam produced several CDs of traditional music and songs among which a recording of various Arabic instruments that he plays and mix in the recording studio, producing a final recording of “One Man Band”. Bassam moved to Canada in 2001. He teaches Middle Eastern music at York University and is the music director and composer for Arabesque Dance Company & Orchestra.

Nader Kabbani: Pianist Nader Kabbani is VP of Amazon’s Global Transportation Solutions. He has been with Amazon for over 11 years and has been deeply involved in Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and in launching the Amazon Kindle and Amazon’s digital music and video services.

Nader holds an M.S. degree in Industrial Engineering & Operations Research and a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering degrees both from Texas A&M University. In addition to his talent as a classical pianist, he is an avid swimmer and squash player. Nader, his wife Oraib and their four daughters live in Bellevue, Washington, and have been long time supporters of SCM.

Community EventsRefugees

Photos from our fundraiser

Here are some photos from our recent fundraiser. Thank you to Samia El-Moslimany for taking and sharing the photos! There are even more photos on our Facebook page.