World Life Institute celebrates opening of new headquarters in Medina

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 April 2016 at 12:00 am

MEDINA – Members of the World Life Institute raise the American flag this afternoon outside The Colonnade, the former Medina Masonic Temple at 229 West Center St.

The Colonnade is the world-wide headquarters for World Life Institute, which runs humanitarian and educational programs in several countries.

World Life has been active in Orleans County for more than two decades. It built a school on Stillwater Road in Carlton about 20 years ago. That site is used for ESL classes, a pottery program for farmworkers, and other educational efforts, including Project Life, where children from war-torn countries spend summers with local host families and learn English, and take art and other classes.

Sisters Tamara, left, and Salma Huzair of Waterport sing the national anthem during a dedication program this afternoon. Their father, Bilal Huzair, is the current World Life president. Idris Salih, back right, was among about 50 people to attend the opening celebration.

World Life members stand at attention after raising the American flag. Chad Scott, left, and Ameen Ghani, right, both served in the military with Scott enlisted from 1999 to 2003 while Ghani served from 1964 to 1967.

Chris Wilson, center, is World Life’s communication director and international director of the Project Life program. The program is in its 20th year and has hosted about 135 children from war-torn Bosnia, Afghanistan and Chechnya. Some children also came one summer from Sri Lanka following a devastating tsunami. All of the children have lost at least one parent to war or tragedy.

World Life wants to push its humanitarian mission, Wilson said, and the new center in Medina will give it a headquarters for educational, humanitarian and cultural work.

The building was used by the Mormon church before the Masons acquired the site about a dozen years ago. Declining membership in the Masonic Lodge convinced the organization’s leaders to sell the building.

World Life added the new sign on Friday, just in time for today’s celebration.

“This is a very special building with a very special history,” Chris Wilson said. “We will continue the tradition of working to improve the human condition.”

Wilson addresses the group gathered for today’s dedication program. World Life wants to use the site for academic programs, and lectures open to the community.

The organization is developing the World Life College with classes in languages, religious studies, emergency preparedness and other subjects. World Life also wants to help high school students with college preparation and entrance exams.

Dr. Asaf Durakovic, director of World Life Institute, helped start the organization about 20 years ago. World Life has grown to an international scope. Durakovic shared a blessing for the headquarters today. He is next to Al Kropf, a member of the Medina Masonic Lodge.

Virginia Kropf, a long-time reporter for The Daily News in Batavia, shares remarks today during the opening ceremonies for The Colonnade. Kropf said Medina has a rich history, and World Life Institute is part of a new chapter. She also shared about becoming an airplane pilot at age 56.

“This building is being put to good use,” Kropf told the group. “We look forward to seeing what you’re going to do with it in Medina.”

Chris Wilson is in back at right, next to Amir Hassan Joosub, who is opening a new World Life site in Geneva, Switzerland.

Dr. Julianne Hazen discusses plans for the World Life College. She is an educator who focuses on contemporary Sufism in America, Britain, and the Balkans. She said World Life will work to bring more educational opportunities to the Medina community, including civic and ESL classes and other programs.