A little over a year ago, the United Kingdom, along with the rest of the world, went into lockdown to protect people from Covid-19. Businesses, schools, places of worship, and even medical services closed. For many people, the lifelines they had come to rely on had been taken away overnight.

Volunteers came out in their hundreds to offer help, support, and guidance to those in need. It was this outpouring of generosity that led to the birth of Ismaili CIVIC in the UK. What started as a small group of people has grown to over 350 volunteers representing 32 Jamatkhanas across the United Kingdom.

It is the wish of Mawlana Hazar Imam that Ismailis serve the communities in which they live to build a better world. He said in 2004 at Brown University that “one of the energising forces that makes a quality civil society possible, of course, is the readiness of its citizens to contribute their talents and energies to the social good.”  

Ismaili CIVIC is a global initiative under which Jamats around the world unite around a common mission to serve humanity by rendering service to improve the quality of life of the communities in which they live, regardless of faith, gender, and background, and is reflective of the Jamat’s ethic of civic engagement and good citizenship.

Keith Wildie, a member of a multi-faith family and co-lead of Ismaili CIVIC, said he joined Ismaili CIVIC because “it’s an opportunity to engage with the whole community and help those who are vulnerable and in need; it’s a very exciting project.”

Over the past year, Ismaili CIVIC has been involved with 50 different projects, including giving donations of food, warm clothes, and children’s toys. In some parts of the UK, local councils approach Ismaili CIVIC on a regular basis for assistance. A recent initiative included providing laptops to students who were homeschooling as a result of school closures caused by the pandemic. These were essential for students to access lessons online and continue learning. 

Most recently, a Covid-19 testing centre has opened in the Zamana Space of The Ismaili Centre London. Open to the public, this is an important contribution to the fight against Covid-19 by providing a walk-in facility for people to take a Covid test. Ismaili CIVIC has played a key role here, making The Ismaili Centre London the first Jamatkhana globally to become a Covid testing centre. 

Reports indicate that social isolation and loneliness have become a pandemic in their own right. Ismaili CIVIC volunteers have been on hand to provide a check in and chat service. 

“This was a vital lifeline for those who lived alone, were lonely or simply wanted a friendly voice to speak to,” said Nazir Manji, co-lead of Ismaili CIVIC. In addition, volunteers provided important information on the Covid-19 pandemic by translating important communication into Guajarati and other languages. 

Care home residents also found themselves isolated. In an effort to stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus, residents were not allowed to receive visitors. Volunteers as young as five years old created pieces of art under an aptly named project called “SMILE through art.” Over 800 pieces of art were collected for 28 national care homes, which involved an impressive 1,000 hours of voluntary service. 

Through engaging with different projects, volunteers are also given the chance to acquire new skills. Ismaili CIVIC joined forces with The Prince’s Trust on a mentoring project to provide help and inspiration to young people. Volunteers were given training on the skills and traits required for a successful mentor and were in regular communication with a check-in contact. Salima Lakhani who was involved with the project said, “I feel good about the little difference I am able to make.”

Reports indicate that domestic abuse has increased by 20 percent as a result of the pandemic, so Ismaili CIVIC’s partnership with different charities will help those in need by providing advice and guidance to victims of abuse. A multi-faith cookbook is also being curated. This will contain recipes from far-reaching corners of the world to unite people over a shared love of diverse food and culture. 

The endeavours of Ismaili CIVIC are going from strength to strength. A new logo has recently been unveiled to promote the global brand, make Ismaili CIVIC a recognisable entity world-wide, and assist with harnessing civic engagement and service by the Ismaili community across the globe. In addition, a global Ismaili CIVIC day will be launched later in the year, bringing all of these activities together in the spirit of service to humanity by the Jamat worldwide. 

The last year has been one of uncertainty, challenge, and often fear. At times, it has been a struggle for people to keep up hope. Mawlana Hazar Imam said in an interview at Harvard University in 2015 that “the moment that people of any generation, of any age, lose hope, it is a very, very damaging thing for that community, that society. So, creating circumstances of hope, is to me very, very important indeed.” 

Ismaili CIVIC volunteers, like all our volunteers, serve with passion, energy, and enthusiasm to help those in need and provide that spark of hope.