In celebration of Eid ul-Fitr, Ismaili volunteers on the West Coast, led by the Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board, helped 10 food banks in 10 cities to pack and distribute over 910,000 meals. The food banks served were in Las Vegas, Visalia, Milpitas, Sacramento, San Diego, Seattle, Phoenix, Portland, Orange County, and Santa Monica. Atlanta and Dallas-Fort-Worth volunteers also joined in the spirit of Ramadan, a month observed by Muslims for fasting of the body and mind, by placing particular emphasis on good deeds and charity. I-CERV (Ismailis Engaged in Responsible Volunteering) events across the nation placed an emphasis on ensuring those in need would have healthy meals to eat, while celebrations of Eid-ul-Fitr brought together communities in a demonstration of unity and brotherhood.
Kayden Gangji, a six year-old student and one of over thirty volunteers at the I-CERV event at the Milpitas Food Pantry, washed apples on a warm morning before they would be served to the homeless later that day. “The Ismaili community is always willing to lend a hand,” explained Karen Kolander, the Director of the food pantry. As volunteers organized food items, tended to the fruits and vegetable garden, and sorted through several boxes of clothes and hygiene items, Karen recognized the impact that I-CERV volunteers have. “We are able to get a lot accomplished when your community is here.”
Eight-year old Khalil Remtullah and his ten year-old brother Aman Remtullah attended the event with their parents, which happened to fall on Father’s Day, and all sorted donated items together. “Responsible volunteering means that we should volunteer with care, and listen to to how other people feel,” shared Khalil. Shahzeb Lakhani, age 14, shared those sentiments: “the more you empathize with those in need, the better you can understand their plights and difficulties.”
For Sonia Topiwala, the act of volunteering aligned with the underlying themes of the month of Ramadan. “Muslims practice discipline during the month of Ramadan—including discipline in how one chooses to spend their time,” says Sonia. “To spend our time in voluntary service as a community during Ramadan really inspires me.”
In Las Vegas, volunteers helped sort over 5,000 pounds of produce that would provide for over 1,000 families at Three Square—southern Nevada’s only Food Bank. "I-CERV provides a unique opportunity to give back to a community in need,” explains Natasha Kanji. “I am blessed to be surrounded by kind-hearted individuals who would selflessly volunteer hours of their weekend to make a difference in the lives of so many families in need"
Seattle volunteers were able to help create 91,000 meals for our those in need, and in Phoenix, St. Mary’s Food Bank benefitted from the assistance of Ismaili volunteers. Volunteers from Greater Los Angeles and Sacramento.organized and boxed food from donations received during food drives in Jamatkhanas.
“I am a firm believer in how I-CERV events allows our Community to visibly demonstrate our ethos of service and generosity,” says Malik Pirani, former Chairman for Economic Planning Board of the Western USA. “The lasting impression that the I-CERV team leaves on others spurs them to better understand us and learn more about our principles and beliefs, and supports our mission to be better ambassadors of our Tariqah.”
The Ismaili Jamatkhana in Atlanta, hosted an appreciation tea on Monday, June 18, on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr. The event was well attended by DeKalb County Police, Fire and Sheriff departments, DeKalb County Board of Commissioners, Georgia State Representatives, diplomats, school principals, church leaders, non-profit organizations, and neighbors and friends in the vicinity of the Ismaili Jamatkhana in Decatur. In keeping with the tradition of Eid of giving thanks and rejoicing with family and friends, the appreciation tea aimed at honoring the service, sacrifice and dedication of men and women in uniform for their service to the community.
At the Children's Museum of Atlanta “Meet the Holidays” celebration of Eid, volunteer Laila Aziz read stories to children who enjoyed a day filled with Eid Mela activities including getting henna tattoos, creating moon and star crowns, and dancing to cultural music. The Ismaili Muslim community has had a five year relationship with the museum in collaborating on Muslim festivals.
Dallas Fort-Worth was also involved in an Eid service initiative, preparing 6,000 nutritional snack bags for local food banks and charities. Sandra Olstad, Manager of Community Relations for City Square, one of the charities receiving the snack bags, said: “It was amazing to be able to have the opportunity to see how everything is unfolding in your community” She added, “Hopefully, we could see and replicate that and learn how to serve our neighbors better in our communities as well.”