In Islamic belief, caring for the poor and the needy is a long established tradition. Serving orphaned children is especially commended, as quoted in the Qur’an and sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him and his family). With this in mind, young members of the Ismaili Volunteers Corps and the Aga Khan Scouts and Guides in Uganda gathered in June to serve hearty meals to orphaned children at the Kasanagati Orphan Fans Society in Kawanda.

A further tradition during the month of Ramadan, involves serving the Iftar to disadvantaged members of society. Iftar, or the customary evening meal to break the fast is a special occasion in many parts of the Muslim world, and communities make the most of the opportunity to serve and stand in solidarity with those less fortunate.

Sheikh Sulaiman Kiberu who manages the orphanage in Kawanda, which houses more than 800 children from all parts of the country said, “We survive on such donations of good-willed and generous communities including Ismailis who occasionally also make contributions towards maintenance of the orphanage.”

Kefina, a 17-year-old volunteer said, “Visiting the children was a very exciting and memorable experience.  It felt good to give back to the community and do something for the needy. Their smiles made me realise that something so small can mean so much and make a difference. All of this teaches us that community service is something that helps build a better future, not just for yourself, but also for others.”

Nadim Lalani, the Outreach Chairman for the Ismaili Council for Uganda said, “This work is part of the civil society support and engagement programme which we carry out in different parts of the country, to promote the spirit of humanity as propagated by Islam. Our main aim is to teach young people the importance of kindness, and how a giving and helping nature can help them to build a better future.”

“Our young volunteers served Iftar in an orphanage that houses at least 800 children. In Islam what is important is brotherhood, looking after the needy and underprivileged, the act of giving back to the community, and enhancing continuity in volunteering,” he added.

Insha, a 13-year-old girl guide said, “I had a good time helping the kids at the orphanage. It was really exciting and I felt really good seeing smiles on their faces. I hope we have more chances to help them in the future,” while Alizeh, an 18-year-old volunteer said, “I thank my community to give me such an opportunity to contribute and serve the underprivileged kids.”  

A donor who helped to procure the food, on the basis of anonymity, said, “It is important to feed the poor and the needy. It is one of the best acts in Islam. By doing this we teach our future generations how to give back to the community with a small deed of kindness.”