Ramadan is a time for giving and charitable causes, but one organisation is looking at practical ways of extending the Ramadan spirit throughout the year, finds Mai Samih
The holy month of Ramadan is finally here, with its blessings and feasts being shared among both rich and poor. This year, the Nahr Al-Ataa (river of giving) Foundation is trying to ensure that the Ramadan spirit remains even after the month has ended by setting up the matbakh sitt al-beit (kitchen of the house lady) organisation, which aims to teach catering skills.
Located in a modest district of Giza, the organisation has a warm, family atmosphere and provides catering work for women from poorer families to help them support their families.
The idea is to help such women develop their cookery skills and to learn how to succeed in the catering business. The organisation, or "Kitchen" as it is known, offers food at reasonable prices to neighbourhood families, most customers being neighbours, working women and private parties.
Mohamed Abdel-Hamid, manager of the Kitchen, said that the idea had come from the Nahr Al-Ataa Foundation's board of trustees. "We particularly want to help widows whose pensions are not enough to support their families," he said.
"I was invited to an event at the headquarters of the foundation and heard that it was looking for cooks to work at the Kitchen. I offered my services, and within ten days I had become part of the team," recalls Umm Abdallah, 47, who has been working in the Kitchen for seven months.
Umm Abdallah is proud to be part of the project, and for her working for the Kitchen is not only a source of income. It is also an expression of religion, since "Islam teaches us that anyone who gives an orphan a pat on the back will receive their reward from God," she says.
The Kitchen helps to provide food for orphans, and as a result those who help it in their work will receive God's recognition, she added.
According to Abdel-Hamid, the Kitchen has two main departments. There is the distribution section, which gives food to sick people every Monday and Thursday and throughout Ramadan free of charge. And there is the commercial section that sells ready-made food to customers, including to the armed forces in Al-Haram Street and Heliopolis. "We also have six distribution centres in Cairo," Abdel-Hamid said.
In Ramadan, the Kitchen adapts the standard menu for causes like mawaed Al-Rahman, charity tables, and there is double the usual number of employees because of the greater demand.
"We have five women working here, and we have asked for another five to join them so that we can prepare around 200 meals a day in the Al-Haram Street area," Abdel-Hamid said. Meals cost between LE8 and 12, depending on the order.
The parent organisation Nahr Al-Ataa is a non-profit organisation that provides orphans with social care and education, including tutoring and even school uniforms. It also provides medical care for the underprivileged and social assistance for the elderly, sick, and divorced and financial support for the marriages of orphaned girls.
According to Abdel-Hamid, the Kitchen still needs further financial support to help it improve its services. "We have had some problems with our ovens because of long-term use, but we have not yet been able to raise the funds to change them," he explained.