“It gives you a feeling that nothing else can really give you, it gives you a different type of joy. You see what you’re doing and how that is helping the community,” says Maha Jalia, a university student and member of the Atlanta I-CERV team.

During the winter holidays, over 200 I-CERV (Ismaili Community Engaged in Responsible Volunteering) volunteers collaborated with multiple food banks across the Southeast region including Second Harvest Food Bank in Knoxville, Mid-South Food Bank in Memphis, Midwest Food Bank in Peachtree City, Atlanta Community Food Bank, Second Harvest Food Bank in Nashville, and the Memphis Interfaith: Meal Packing – Rise Against Hunger event, integrating service into the tradition of holiday celebration.   

Volunteers of all ages sorted through roughly 11,000 items, discarded 1,000 pounds of food, and donated 7,895 meals to the community at the Atlanta Community Food Bank. The food was sorted, packaged, and distributed to over 600 non-profit agencies through the Atlanta Community Food Bank Network.

Amisa Jiwani, a 19-year-old student shares her experience, “It is amazing to see how much of a difference can be made in such a short amount of time. Watching the Jamat come together to help the Atlanta community is an empowering experience.” She added, “this experience was enlightening for me, and I would like to believe for all the volunteers as well because it exposes us to the vulnerable populations in our own neighborhoods.”

The ethics of Islam have a collective focus on respect for human dignity and relief for humanity, and the AKDN ethical mandate emphasizes a policy of nurturing and harnessing a culture of philanthropy and sharing of time and talent. The holidays are a great time for reflection and expressing gratitude for all that we have, and the Southeast region decided to show gratitude during the Winter Holidays by incorporating the ethic of compassion and sharing. The experience says Maha, “restored my faith in humanity.”

Food insecurity affects millions of people in America. Research shows that 1 in 7.5 people, or an estimated 755,400 people, in metro Atlanta and north Georgia turn to food pantries and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families each year. This includes more than 164,000 children and more than 64,000 seniors.

Food banks across the Southeast play an integral part in helping these families fight hunger. The opportunity to bring the Ismaili community together with the greater community and share our values is the reason events such as these attract not only a large number of volunteers, but also volunteers of all ages. The emphasis on communities coming together and working together for a good cause is what inspired many of the volunteers to attend this event, as well as other I-CERV events.