Young Ismailis came out in droves during a severe cold weather snap that hit the Northeast region, to uphold the tradition of serving the community during Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend.

Numa Rehmani from Richmond felt it was fitting to serve the community on such a day in memory of Dr. King. “He always preached that the community should work with each other and care for one another. I thought this was a great way to spend that day,” she said.

The ethic of service to others is a long-standing pillar of the Ismaili faith, and participating in such activities is one of the ways that we uphold this value. Various I-CERV outreach programs were organized throughout the weekend in New York City, Edison, Richmond, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington to mark the day. From painting in an elementary public-school gym, to restoring a cemetery, I-CERV volunteers from the Northeast gathered throughout the long weekend to engage with the community.

New York Jamatkhana volunteers spent their Sunday delivering ‘meals on wheels’ on foot  – an ongoing effort of New York City to provide food for elderly and disabled people within their homes.

To share this experience of serving, I participated in this expedition. After arriving at the arena, I was paired with Zoha, a student at Columbia University. We were given two heavy bags - one containing cold food and the other hot food, with a list to deliver items to respective people at their homes. The smile on faces when they received the food was enough to signify that our efforts were appreciated. Some even shared a joke with us.

A parent-daughter duo from Washington, D.C. enjoyed volunteering together. Noordin Moloo, a parent of a nine-year-old says, “I participated in the service on MLK day with my young daughter.” His wife added, “The ethics of our faith teach us to volunteer one’s time and knowledge. I want to give my time for community service and teach my daughter to do the same, not only within the Jamat but also with the community at large. It feels good to be an ambassador of my faith.”

I-CERV volunteers in Richmond restored the overgrown Evergreen Cemetery. The Evergreen cemetery was filled with vines that had grown over the graves. Many families were in dismay because they weren’t able to locate their loved ones’ graves due to the foliage. Rayhaan Merani was motivated with the idea of serving and engaging in the community. About 20 I-CERV volunteers came together to work towards a common task jointly with the Southgate Community Center in Reston, where they helped the center to sort toys. He says, “We're hoping to continue the progress and build on this service and community engagement over the next few months by engaging in outdoor community restoration.”

Danish Dhamani helped organize the activity for the Philadelphia Jamat, where they painted and refurbished a section of an elementary school gym. For Danish, “painting looked like an easy task.” However, when he was in the midst of it he realized, “once the paint dried we saw all the imperfections in our technique. So, we had to roll over again, but this time more meticulously.”

During these activities, young Ismailis got a chance to interact with community leaders, police officers, teachers, reinforcing our participation in and dedication to our local communities.