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Kingston Muslim community leaders encourage support for local food bank

Dan Irwin and Imam AbdurRashid Taylor
(L to R) Dan Irwin, Director of Partners in Mission Food Bank and Imam AbdurRashid Taylor. Submitted photo.

By the calendar, Ramadan is set to begin this year on Thursday, Apr. 23. On a typical year, the beginning of Ramadan would also mark the kick off an international campaign of locally-based charitable giving by an organization called Give 30. The Muslim community in Kingston is an active part of the Give 30 movement, and along with other cities, they are mobilizing the 2020 campaign early, since this year is anything but typical.

Give 30, a Canadian-based organization, usually centers their campaign around the month of Ramadan, encouraging people of all faiths and those who are not part of a faith tradition to join together to support food banks and emergency housing organizations that are local to the donor’s own community. For Muslims, the tie to the practice of local charitable support is a strong and meaningful one.

“Almsgiving, or Zakat, is one of the pillars of the Islamic faith,” notes Mona Rahman, a co-chair of the Kingston Give 30 Campaign. “Anyone who has more than the basics has the responsibility to give a portion of the extra to others who are in need. It’s a reminder that our wealth is not our own, and that we have a communal responsibility to help those who are less fortunate. In Ramadan, we try to build on this habit of generosity, and this in turn shapes our character towards empathy and compassion.”

Rahman and her co-chair, Imam AbdurRashid Taylor, have been leading the Kingston Give 30 campaigns since 2013.

“The whole thing started in 2012,” says Rahman. “The creator of the movement, Ziyaad Mia, is a lawyer in Toronto, and a friend of Imam AbdurRashid. One day at the start of Ramadan, he was washing and putting his coffee mug away for the coming month, and a colleague said, ‘You must save so much money during Ramadan by not buying food and drink during the day!’ and that struck him. He asked himself, ‘Why not use these savings to do something that’s beneficial to my own community?’”

Give 30 partnerships have now spread across Canada, and even internationally, in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Here in Kingston, the organization receiving community support is Partners in Mission Food Bank. Dan Irwin, the Director of Partners in Mission, is delighted with the ongoing support from Give 30.

“We are very thankful for Give 30’s generous support over the years. When they suggested that this year’s campaign start early to help with the sudden increase in demand caused by COVID-19, I was pleasantly surprised. The Give 30 campaign has been steadily increasing and I am certain that they will meet and likely exceed their goal this year,” Irwin says.

The goal for the Kingston community campaign is an ambitious one – last year $8,000 was raised, and this year, the organizers are aiming for $10,000. Irwin notes that this will be put to very good use.

“With COVID-19, we have increased our daily hamper output to 70 (Previously we were between 55-60). To get a hamper, clients (or new clients) need to call 613-384-4534 to book an appointment. Our hampers contain approximately seven days groceries and include fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs and milk,” he says. “As this pandemic continues, it places greater pressure on households that are not receiving a pay cheque. The recovery will be important, as any prolonged delays will also impact household incomes, which will increase the need in our community.”

Rahman agrees that recognizing community need is the starting point to action.

“As you fast during Ramadan, one of the things that happens is you feel the pangs of hunger and thirst, and that can make you more empathetic to those who struggle to find food and drink,” she says. “We’re so siloed – literally, right now – in our individual houses, but even in normal circumstances, we might not know our neighbours and their needs very well. This is a way to challenge ourselves to give back to the community that we are in.”

Online donations can be made through the Give 30 website, and donors can select “Kingston (Partners in Mission Food Bank)” in the dropdown menu.

Donations to Partners in Mission Food Bank can also be made online through CanadaHelps.

Rahman encourages anyone who can give to do so.

“We need to remember that we are all part of the same community. We’re just starting the emphasis on Ramadan generosity a little earlier this year,” she says.

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