Ramadan’s spirit of generosity throughout Lebanon

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 SHAFAQNA – Annahar | by  Ghadir Hamadi and Tala Hammour : People all over Lebanon are currently wishing each other “Ramadan Kareem,” which means “have a generous Ramadan.”

More than just a well-wished sentiment, the month is a time of heartfelt giving, particularly to those less fortunate, as part of an encouragement to worshipers to strengthen their patience, compassion and generosity. In particular, many NGOs and individuals work daily to serve iftar, the evening fast-breaking meal, for underprivileged communities around Lebanon.

A top example of the spirit of the month is embodied by Sawa for Development and Aid’s Ramadan Community Kitchen located in Beqaa, in which the NGO aims to cook for 6,000 refugees every day for a whole month. The kitchen is packed with a group of 80 volunteer workers who chop, cook and pack food ceaselessly from 10 a.m. until just before sunset, when the warm meals are delivered straight to the family tents.

Each meal includes a container of dates, a pack of Arabic bread, fresh salad and a main dish.

Dr. Rouba Mhaissen, the founder of Sawa, said that upholding the dignity of the refugees is one of the pillars of the NGO, “they are sitting in their own homes, their own personal space, and are receiving a meal without having to go and queue; in a dignified way,” she told Annahar.

According to Dr. Mhaissen, the idea for the kitchen emerged when the group asked the refugee communities they support “What is it that you miss most in Ramadan?,” inevitably being told, “we miss family time, we miss the meals we used to cook in Syria, and not having to queue up for a food basket or having to cook with only lentils and rice.”

Ahmad Ali is another pioneer in charity activities, who currently manages a soup kitchen in Kaskas called “Khiyam el Kheir.”

“The kitchen provides for disadvantaged people who have no food in their homes, so they come eat with us,” he said. The initiative is funded by the organizations Cedar and Futuwwa, as well as private donors.

In Kaskas, tables are set up to serve iftar for around 600 people daily. Volunteers line up to plate meals and serve guests at their table. “We have a diversity of Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian guests,” Ali said.

InnerVoiceBeirut is an organization founded by a group of young people who came together and decided to take matters into their own hands to give back to their communities. Although they work all the year round, they double their efforts during Ramadan.

IVB distributes food boxes containing rice, sugar, wheat, tuna cans, cooking oil, instant soup packets, processed cheese, lentil, and tea bags amongst other products.

Lebanese both at home and in Diaspora donate money, as a means of giving back to their community during the month of Ramadan.

This year IVB has distributed 50 food boxes so far, and are still continuing their effort. Last year, they distributed around 70 food boxes.

Personal initiatives are also common during this holy month.

Dana Kassir, the mother of five children, decided along with a group of friends to prepare dinner boxes of freshly prepared meals for poor families residing in their neighborhood.

Others have decided to cook large quantities of daily meals together at the basements of their local mosques, and distribute them at refugee camps, and run-down areas.

“It’s easier and more convenient to cook in large amounts at the same time,” said Fatima Kassir, “we cook around 10 kgs of rice three times a week, we chop 20 kgs of vegetables to prepare fresh salads, and we make large pots of sizzling hot soup to distribute,” she added.

“Frankly, this is the least we can do when we are constantly showered with God’s blessings on a daily basis,” Yasmeen Dergham told Annahar.

Burger King in Raouche has also become known for its charity iftars for children.

According to the manager Fadi Kassem, the restaurant provides discount meals to around 150 underprivileged children daily. “Most of the time, individuals will sponsor children from Dar al Aytam,” he told Annahar. It has a special offer for Ramadan, providing meals with drinks and animation for L.L.10,000 per child, paid by hosting individuals.

The Raouche branch is the most suitable for these types of events, as it can accommodate up to 300 people and has a play area for children to distract themselves while they wait for the sun to set.

Who is Hussain, an International organization with representatives in over 60 cities worldwide, aims at organizing charitable events throughout the year for the common good.

This year, the group has set a target of distributing 250,000 food boxes to the less fortunate.

Riham Hijazi, Who is Hussain’s Beirut representative, told Annahar that their usual target in Lebanon is to distribute around 500 food boxes.

“In addition to that, we hold an interfaith iftar with the Order of Malta, a Christian charity, and distribute freshly prepared meals during this holy month,” she noted.

Antami, a local NGO, also has a running kitchen hosted by the Zakat Fund in Aicha Bakkar, where a group of women work to provide food for around 400 individuals daily. Beneficiaries can pick up the warm meals daily Monday through Friday at the kitchen. Antami also pays the cooks a daily salary to help them sustain their household.

Nada Merehbi, the founder of Antami, highlights the importance of maintaining charitable practices even when the spirit of Ramadan is not here to motivate, “The nice things is that we keep going all year round, since we believe that giving should not stop after Ramadan and that a warm healthy meal is always welcome.”

 

Read more from Shafaqna:

Muslims run for charity during Ramadan

Muslims mark Ramadan with prayers, charity in Kenya

Charity enlists 800 volunteers to help needy during Ramadan                     

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