'Give 30' offers non-Muslim Montrealers a taste of Ramadan

Non-Muslim Montrealers looking to connect more closely with their Muslim friends can participate in Ramadan through Give 30, a group that gives non-Muslims a chance to donate money to food banks or join Muslims on their holy month of fasting.

'Hunger does not discriminate or have a religion,' says organization's founder

Give 30 began as a joke between friends and grew into a larger initiative to fight hunger and foster empathy, according to its founder Ziyaad Mia. (Courtesy of Ziyaad Mia)

Non-Muslim Montrealers looking to connect more closely with their Muslim friends or family during this year's Ramadan can do so thanks to Give 30. 

The organization encourages non-Muslim Quebecers to join their friends throughout their fasting period and to donate money to different food banks across the country, the founder of Give 30, Ziyaad Mia, told CBC Montreal's Daybreak

The holy month of Ramadan starts this week and runs until July 7. During Ramadan, Muslims avoid eating or drinking anything from sunrise to sunset. 

The young, the elderly and those too sick to fast are asked to participate by donating to those who need it more. 

Mia will be starting his fast on June 6. 

"The idea is to think about a very real issue of hunger and to have empathy. Hunger does not discriminate or have a religion," said Mia.

In Quebec, Give 30 runs in partnership with Food Banks of Quebec, a non-profit group that helps distribute food and money to different food banks across the province.

According to Food Banks of Quebec, 400,000 people go hungry in Quebec every month — 150,000 of whom are children.

From joke to generosity

Around 2001, Mia was cleaning out his coffee mug for Ramadan when he started joking with a friend who had bought a Starbucks coffee.

"I just told him 'Hey! You know, at least during Ramadan, I save a lot of money. I love saving money'" said Mia.

That's what Mia described as the "Eureka" moment.

Though 15 years of procrastination kept Mia from implementing his idea, the advancement in technology during that time worked in his favour.

In 2012, he designed and launched his website and the Give 30 initiative debuted in Quebec a year later.

So far, the Give 30 campaign has raised almost $20,000 in Quebec. Nationally, the number to date is almost $400,000. This year, the organization hopes to reach the $500,000 mark. 

Though the initiative is Ramadan-based, Mia says the values of the holy month are not exclusive to Islam.

"The spirit of Ramadan is pretty much universal," Mia said. "If you see someone in need, you help them."

Those interested in donating can visit Give 30's website.