Sunday,23 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1207, (24 - 30 July 2014)
Sunday,23 September, 2018
Issue 1207, (24 - 30 July 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Knocking on doors in Ramadan

The Kolena Mesaharaty team has been helping the needy this Ramadan, writes Omneya Yousry

Al-Ahram Weekly

The sight of young people packing and distributing meals on the streets during prayers is a characteristic of the holy month of Ramadan. Charity in Ramadan has extra virtues and merits. The Prophet, Peace be upon Him, was especially charitable in Ramadan, and “was more generous than the wind that brings rain.” Charitable activities in Egypt during Ramadan have become more significant in recent years, notably because of media campaigns by prominent charitable organisations.

“The Kolena Mesaharaty (all of us are mesaharaty) name for the campaign was derived from the traditional role of the mesaharaty, the person who wakes people up to have their sohour, the last meal before the fast begins in Ramadan. Thus, we remind people of their obligation to help those in need,” said Salah Khalil, 30, one of the founders of this campaign group.

“The idea was to gather many activities with the same objectives under one umbrella. Each team used to make between one to two thousand Ramadan bags, so we thought why don’t we build a bigger organisation to focus our efforts on collecting more donations? This would also allow us to buy materials from the same traders at lower prices and reach more needy people.”

 A Ramadan bag is a common way for charitable giving in Ramadan, and it contains basic foods and is distributed to poor families. For five years now, Kolena Mesaharaty has been carrying out its annual Ramadan charitable campaign, having been brought to life through the efforts of a group of youth organisers and volunteers from across more than 13 youth groups, including Tadawo, Kheir Guide, the Nebny Foundation, the Nile University Student Union, Best Purified, Alashanek ya Balady, the GUC, Big Buddy, Bedaya, and Honest Followers.

More than 2,000 volunteers participate on temporarily basis, and the campaign aims at food packing and distribution for needy and underprivileged families before and during Ramadan, while also helping to develop poorer districts in Cairo and other governorates.

Donations are collected individually by word of mouth among the volunteers’ families, friends and Facebook lists. The next step is to find the best offers from traders. Then there is moving and storing the goods in the five centres where the packing takes place until the trucks are ready to take the completed bags to the distribution zones under the supervision of the campaign organisers and volunteers.

“Bringing all the groups together means that the packing centres are local branches in which volunteers can participate close to their homes. There are packing points in Nasr City, Heliopolis, Al-Haram, Al-Maadi and Al-Mohandiseen, for example,” Khalil continued.

Charitable activities in Ramadan are usually focused on giving to those suffering from poverty or hunger, and they very often take the form of money and food donations. However, in the wake of the 30 June Revolution and the subsequent decline in security and the economic situation, there have been declines in cash donations and in the number of volunteers.

Donations have fallen markedly in comparison to recent years, Khalil said. “It’s either due to the rising cost of living or because of Brotherhood initiatives that encourage people to shrug off the needy who did not necessarily support it during recent political events. Anyhow, the outcome has been the same: more hunger with fewer donations. We still owe LE20,000 for the cost of the Ramadan bags,” he said.

As a result, Kolena Mesaharaty was not able to distribute the same amount of bags this year. Over recent years, they have distributed more than 45,000 bags across 11 governorates, but this year they are not reaching the same number.

“This year’s target was to give away 20,000 bags along with continuing to develop charitable projects,” said Nourhan Ismail, 19, a member of the Nile University Student Union. One Ramadan bag could help feed a family of four for a month, he said, containing four kg of rice, three kg of pasta, two kg of sugar, a block of margarine, a bottle of oil and a jar of tomato sauce.

Each bag is sponsored for LE70, with the LE8 difference between this price and the actual cost being used for development projects in needy districts in Egypt.

Everyone can donate whatever they can afford, and there’s no fixed amount. People can even donate their efforts in packing and distribution. Even children are participating, with their parents helping them to get used to doing charitable work and recognising social responsibility.

Mohamed al-Said, 29, a Bena’ member, said that the distribution locations were carefully chosen each year. “The campaign reaches many governorates, especially in Upper Egypt, where they lack help from official parties. A group of volunteers are in charge of each location where they distribute the bags under the guidance of trusted residents. This is in addition to areas where we have done long-term surveys over the past nine years since we started working in small groups.”

In Cairo, distribution takes place at Berak Al-Khayam, Batn Alba’ar, Al-Monib, Torab Al-Yahod and Al-Baragil. Outside, there are centres in Beni Sweif, Shabramant, Fayoum, Menya, Sohag and other provinces.

It’am (ready-made meals for distribution to the needy) are also distributed by Kolena Mesaharaty volunteers. Every Saturday during Ramadan, volunteers prepare fresh meals for 500 needy people for iftar. These include rice, grilled kofta, bread, dates, fruit and juice, and they are distributed in various districts. Kolena Mesaharaty volunteers also do not stop there, for in the last ten days of Ramadan they start collecting donations again to prepare eid packs for children that include toys, juice, biscuits and balloons.

“Seeing the smile on the faces of the elderly and the children is something that we will never forget, making us grateful for all the blessings that God has bestowed on us,” said Passinte Amin, a Kolena Mesaharaty volunteer. Wherever you are in the world, look around you and you will find some kind of volunteer work you can do. Fasting and praying are essential. But they are not the only things God wants to see from you.

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