British Columbia

Muslims connect with faith during Ramadan by giving as well as fasting

Muslim in B.C. are expanding the way they connect with their faith during Ramadan by launching a virtual food drive in hopes of raising funds to provide for clients.

Muslim Food Bank launches virtual food drive in hopes of raising funds to provide for clients during Ramadan

Muslim Food Bank volunteers distribute food hampers out of their Surrey warehouse twice a month (Cliff Shim/CBC)

Ramadan is more than half-way over as Muslims around the world abstain from eating and drinking during daylight hours for 29 or 30 days, depending on the lunar cycle.

The month is meant to be deeply spiritual, a time when Muslims can reconnect with their faith.

But going without food and water during this month from dawn to dusk is not the only part of observing the religion. Charity is also one of the five pillars of Islam that weaves itself through this holy month.

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims believe the reward of doing good deeds is multiplied and in the case of the Muslim Food Bank, that deed can come by donating food, money or your time.

"This month we seek the connection to God and it's a good feeling that we have this opportunity to do good and make a difference in people's lives," says Azim Dahya, director of the Muslim Food Bank. "It feels like all our souls are connected."

Humble beginnings for a humble cause

What began as informal food distribution from a garage in Surrey nearly 10 years ago, has grown to a 3,500-square foot warehouse serving more than 400 families in the Lower Mainland.

WATCH: What is Ramadan?

The non-profit organization gathers essential food items like rice, oil and flour for those with low income and distributes food hampers twice a month out of the Surrey warehouse.

"In our faith, it's very important to us to help the less fortunate and always remember you could be on the other side. And in our faith we say you're not a good Muslim if your brother goes to bed hungry and you've eaten," says Mehmoona Ali, a volunteer at the Muslim Food Bank.

Mehmoona Ali volunteers with the Muslim Food Bank and says giving back is an important part of the Islamic faith. (Cliff Shim/CBC)

The Food Bank also played an integral role with government-sponsored Syrian refugees who came to Canada, helping many when they first arrived.

One of them was Bahaa Albasha, who fled Syria two years ago.

Albasha, 16, said he understands what it's like to be on the receiving end of food bank donations and now serves as a volunteer with the organization.

"It's an honour to give back," he said.

Bahaa Albasha, 16, came to Canada as a Syrian refugee two years ago and now volunteers at the Muslim Food Bank in Surrey. (Cliff Shim/CBC)

The bulk of the donations come from fundraising efforts and local businesses. But during the month of Ramadan, the organization attempts to give extra items to families so they can sustain themselves during the long fasts and also prepare for the end of Ramadan festivities known as Eid ul-Fitr, which translates as the "festival of breaking fast."

Introducing virtual donations

This month they kicked off a virtual food drive in which people are able to sponsor a family by donating a sum between $35 and $75 to help with food for the month.

On May 25th, the food bank will open its doors for a food drive where non-perishable items can be donated along with money to help fill the need. That drive will run from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm at 104-12941 115 Avenue, Surrey.

Beyond Ramadan, the need remains high and the organization is hoping people will become regular monthly donors to help with operations throughout the year.

The dozens of volunteers who regularly show up to orchestrate distribution days and beyond say it's a way for them to connect with their faith "I get much more out of being a volunteer, it's very humbling," says Ali.

Muslim Food Bank provides staple items to households in need like oil, rice, flour. (Cliff Shim/CBC)

The food bank is about connecting on a personal level with clients, she says. "They tell you their difficulties and you try to help them."

One client was ecstatic to tell her he wouldn't need to rely on the food bank anymore — he had a new job.



Nadia Jannif


Nadia Jannif is a producer for CBC Vancouver. You can connect with her on Twitter @njannif.


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