Ever since Ismailis began to settle in Portugal in the 1970s, members of the Jamat have contributed their time and talents on a voluntary basis towards the development of the community and wider society. Here, we share the stories and experiences of Portuguese volunteers across generations, united by a lifetime of service.

Volunteers have been integral to the evolution of the Ismaili community in Portugal, from the establishment of the first Jamatkhana in Areeiro in 1975, to the opening of the Ismaili Centre Lisbon in 1998, and more recently welcoming the global Jamat to Portugal for the Diamond Jubilee Celebration in 2018.

A long-standing tradition in Ismaili history, volunteering is directly related to service, generosity, and mutual aid — fundamental values of our faith. Mawlana Hazar Imam has often spoken of the importance of volunteers to the functioning of Jamats around the world, and has recognised and appreciated volunteers’ part in the success of Jamati and Imamat institutions. 

“I am fortunate to lead an international community with a strong social conscience,” he said in a speech made in Berlin, Germany, in October 2005.

“The Ismailis have a long tradition of philanthropy, self-reliance and voluntary service. Wherever they live, they faithfully abide by the Quranic ethic of a common humanity and the dignity of man. They willingly pool knowledge and resources with all those who share our social ethic to help improve the quality of life of less fortunate men, women and children.” 

The Jamat have endeavoured to follow this ethic ever since travelling to Portugal from Africa over 40 years ago, bringing with them the tradition of service handed down over generations.

Nasser Carimo is a Portuguese volunteer that has been serving for over 30 years. He believes that every volunteer must have certain qualities to create a positive impact in the community. “More than time and patience, a volunteer must be organised, and have discipline and tolerance… We should start slowly and perform all our tasks with love, commitment, professional pride, and humility. As soon as we enrol in this life of service we will feel the impact in all our mental, psychological, and spiritual dimensions.”

The story of the Ismaili volunteers in Portugal started in Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony where several thousand murids lived, before many left Eastern Africa in the 1970s. 

Perine Jiná is one of the many Ismailis that began to volunteer in Mozambique during her childhood. She joined the Brownies, a group of young volunteers that served whenever needed. She was just nine years old, and, like today’s Scouts, Brownies continuously serve with love and happiness, and in harmony with nature and the surrounding environment. 

“My mother was a volunteer and I grew up learning that volunteering was a part of us, a part of our faith, and a part of our identity. Everything we do is worth it when we feel we have done our part, have contributed and have helped others. When I do voluntary work, I feel happy and satisfied and that everything in life is better. It is a feeling like no other, especially when we put our heart and soul into what we do.”

Perine also served as a volunteer during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Silver, Golden and Diamond Jubilees, some of the most enriching experiences in her life. 

“It was very exhausting — I think I didn't sleep for three days. However, it was the possibility to serve our Imam and our community that gave me the motivation to continue,” said Perine, who hopes to be a volunteer for many more years to come.

Younger members of the Jamat also contribute enthusiastically. Volunteering from an early age is a value that has been encouraged by older generations over time. Dedicating time and effort in helping others, both inside and outside the Jamatkhana space, being part of the shoes or kitchen committee, supporting the boards or simply helping others, are just a few examples. Walking through the Ismaili Centre Lisbon, one often comes across young Scouts and Guides diligently running drills or learning new skills.

Samir Ismail, 20, has been serving as a volunteer for more than three years. He describes volunteering as a distinctive value in the Ismaili community. 

“It allows me to use my skills to serve the community, having a direct impact on people's lives and the achievement of institutional goals, whilst also being an opportunity for learning and for personal enrichment,” Samir said. “The happiest moment I have ever experienced as an Ismaili volunteer was definitely the Diamond Jubilee Celebration in Lisbon. The dedicated and unconditional work of all volunteers — from several countries — resulted in an unparalleled event. It was a significant milestone in the history of our community that created a legacy to be continued by future generations.” 

Samir believes that volunteering has positively impacted his life and recognises its importance in his personal development. 

“Voluntary work has become essential in my life as a way of exercising citizenship. It lets me be creative and supportive, and enables me to recognise problems and act quickly, thoughtfully, and effectively. It helps me to develop skills such as self-confidence, responsibility, and team spirit.”

Rizvana Sadrudin started volunteering when she was 18 years old and feels very fulfilled when she volunteers. She encourages others to join the IVC as the Jamat in Portugal continues to grow.

“To the younger members of the Jamat, I would suggest you volunteer. Not only because we need more volunteers, but also since you bring different and new abilities to the table. Becoming a volunteer will benefit your own lives, the way you view the world and the way you face it. It is an enriching experience and provides a fountain of knowledge.”

Ismaili volunteers can be proud of themselves for their service, their time, generosity, effort, and selfless contributions. As Khalil Gibran once said, “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”