Ramadan is a widely cherished time of the year for the Muslim world. Despite the day-long deprivation from food and water, that month, in particular, has its own charm, with family and friends gathering over Iftar feasts and pre-dawn hours of Suhour when people are mostly gulping water and stuffing themselves with food in preparation for a long foodless morning.
But it’s not just through restraining from drinking and eating that people test the strength of religious faith; it’s also about spiritual cleansing and simulating poor people’s feelings as they struggle to feed themselves.
Decades-old and new NGOs alike spring into action and prepare various volunteer-based activities during Ramadan. Resala Charity Foundation, an established NGO founded in 1999 targets poor and underprivileged Egyptians. During Ramadan, its activities are mainly focused on packing food bags, cooking daily meals, and sorting out clothes for the poor. Sorting out clothes is among Resala’s most popular activities and one which receives (literally) tones of donations, from completely worn out pieces to branded tops and suits.
"Even uncommitted volunteers are dedicated to charitable activities during the holy month"
“Our ultimate goal is to vanquish any difference between the poor and non-poor which may arise due to differences in quality of clothing. Thus, we make sure that any donated piece is still in fashion, other outdated clothes are sent for recycling,” said Pancé Mohamed, a coordinator in the donated clothes activity in Resala.
“During Ramadan, the clothes activity receives on average 50 volunteers on a daily basis. They come to sort out the donated clothes and repack them in preparation for the final bazaar, where poor families go clothes shopping using their allotted free coupons,” Pancé said. Having collected two million pieces of clothing, this activity reportedly provided clothing for 150,000 poor Egyptians last Ramadan.
Similarly energetic, Nebny Foundation emerged two years ago with the goal of achieving sustainable development through tackling the root causes of socioeconomic problems in Egypt. They focus their efforts on Manshiet Nasser, a slum area in Cairo known as the garbage city.
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“Nebny's main target is to develop and improve the living conditions for Manshiet Nasser citizens, through creating job opportunities, developing education and providing health care services. Aside from that, we are doing it for the overwhelming sense of self-satisfaction and joy, which ensues from helping others. At Nebny it’s all about happiness to share,” said Ahmad Bayoumi, Nebny’s Media & PR head.
Only two years into the journey, Nebny’s members have taken quick and huge strides on their way to achieving their goal; they managed to renovate a major street in Manshiet Nasser, sponsor and support 13 microprojects, and start a children development program.
From young kids to working professionals, everyone comes together to bring about positive change to a society plagued with a diverse set of problems, including poor (or even nonexistent) healthcare, ailing education system, and extreme poverty. “Our youngest volunteer is called Malak, she’s 11-years old. She has been part of the Atfalona Project; she transfers the knowledge which she receives in her private school to Nebny’s teachers, so that they include it in the material being passed on to the kids,” said Ahmad Bayoumi.
For this Ramadan, as part of its efforts to tackle chronic unemployment, Nebny is helping workshop owners to sell their locally manufactured authentic sets of cups and jugs. For education purposes, Nebny has a talents and skills development program for the kids living in Manshiet Nasser called Atfalona (Our Kids). Other Ramadan-specific activities include serving daily Iftar meals, packing and distributing Ramadan food bags.
Other Middle Eastern NGOs and corporations share the notion of focusing on philanthropy in Ramadan. In UAE, for example, Dubai Mall and Dubai Cares have jointly launched a charity initiative under the theme of “The World Gathers Here for Goodness” in order to support the underprivileged.
“During Ramadan, our activities do not significantly differ, however, the number of volunteers significantly rise, because even uncommitted volunteers are dedicated to charitable activities during the holy month,” concludes Ahmad Bayoumi.