In preparing for Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee visit to the United Kingdom, the demonstration of unity within the Jamat has been heartwarming. The various preparation and celebration programmes and events have been made possible due to the hard work of thousands of volunteers in the Jamat, of all ages and walks of life.
The centuries-old tradition of giving of one's time and resources is a significant aspect of Ismaili history and the bedrock of our community. It encourages initiative, develops leadership capacity and provides Jamati members an opportunity for personal and professional development. Volunteering also encourages us to work together, building unity in the Jamat. This makes us more capable as a community to recognise and respond to new challenges as they arise, and therefore, voluntary service is a way of maintaining and building upon the strength of the Jamat, generation after generation.
Mohammed Ladha started volunteering at the age of 14 at Northwest London Jamatkhana, and his team today still includes many of the same people he started serving with at that time. His team has been busy for weeks preparing to ensure the smooth running of the forthcoming programmes at the Ismaili Centre London. One of the many reasons he is looking forward to the Mulaqat is because “it provides an amazing chance to bond and connect with so many different people you might not otherwise work alongside, all working together to make this a memorable experience for the Jamat.”
Jahanara Mirzai and the Audio Visual Unit have been busy practicing the vital skills required to record and document the various events of the Diamond Jubilee visit. Jahanara, from North London Jamatkhana, has been part of the team for four years and was initially motivated to volunteer after her experience working alongside her sister and friend in the recycling and catering teams during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Golden Jubilee visit in 2008.
“It was quite overwhelming, there was so much to do, there were so many people, but everyone was so happy and I was so happy to be able to help,” Jahanara said. Remembering her kind and energetic team leader at the time, she said she “hopes that others will experience what I experienced and want to volunteer at this Darbar.”
Rumina Rafizadeh, from Leicester Jamatkhana, has been serving for over 30 years. She was Captain of the Ismaili Volunteer Corps (IVC) in Leicester Jamatkhana during Hazar Imam’s visit to the UK in 1994, and recalls the incredible opportunities she had whilst serving. For this visit, she is especially looking forward to sharing the day with her six-year-old daughter, Eiliyah, and introducing her to the ethics of volunteering from a young age. Eiliyah is already showing early promise, helping with catering at local Jamati events.
In the basement of the Ismaili Centre London, the Diamond Jubilee Human Resources team have been busy sifting through all the allocations and duties for over 2500 volunteers that will have roles on Darbar day. Shenaz Kotadia, Captain of Birmingham Jamatkhana has said that “being surrounded by dynamic, valiant and smart people working around the clock has been nothing but inspiring. The sacrifice of sleep and dedication of an immense amount of time is familiar to many volunteers; they do not do this for personal gain or material wealth but out of sincere love and devotion for the Imam and Jamat.”
Serving enables us to honour our historical roots, while adapting to and addressing the challenges of our time. Opportunities for the Jamat to come together to serve and to socialise are essential today, as they help to maintain a sense of belonging and community, and remind us of our connectedness with one another.
In addition, service is not only a matter of generosity in giving the best of one's time and skills, it is also about generosity in the manner in which one gives. It means having an open mind and an open heart. As the Jamat prepares to welcome Mawlana Hazar Imam to the UK, Mohammed, Jahanara, Rumina, Shenaz, and thousands of others are serving with open hearts, making final preparations to facilitate a memorable experience for all.