When Fadie Musallat started a small initiative in 2017 to distribute meals among labourers, all he wanted to do was do his bit to give back to society. At the time, he was distributing anywhere between 100 to 500 packs of food as often as he could. Six years later, it has swelled to a movement called The Giving Family that has distributed 150,000 meals during Ramadan 2022 and is looking all set to exceed those numbers this year.
“The amount of positivity and goodness that keeps into the initiative is just amazing,” said Zehra Rizvi, one of the organizers of The Giving Family.
“We began posting about it on social media about three years ago and since then, we have only seen the movement get bigger and bigger.”
Palestinian-American Fadie, Canadian Zehra and Algerian-British Sabrina Rabhi are the backbone of the Giving Family. This year, the trio and their battalion of volunteers have already distributed 12,700 packs of food in the first five days of Ramadan. Some days they are distributing in multiple camps. “Today we are doing two camps,” she said.
“One for the public like we do every day, and another for distributing iftar kits by private companies. We work with a lot of big brands and companies as well.”
For Zehra, the biggest reward of being involved in this movement has been the sense of belonging. “It is like we are a family,” she said.
“The volunteers, the labourers and us, we have all become one big family unit. Last Eid, a labourer drew us a card that he had hand painted. It was the sweetest thing.”
Last week, she met an Afghan grandfather and his seven grandchildren in a labour camp in Al Quoz. “I had no clue that women and children lived in these camps,” she said.
“When I met him and he brought his grandchildren, they were so shy. But they were so grateful for the food. It really made my day.”
According to Zehra, for most of the labourers, what they love most about the iftar kit distribution has been the chance to have engaging conversations. “We don’t just distribute the kits,” she said.
“Most of our volunteers spend time chatting with the people and interacting with them. Many of the workers have said how much they enjoy and look forward to meeting these new people who are not usually a part of their social circles, having conversations with them and discovering new things. For many of them it is a feeling of being seen and heard.”
Contributions and volunteering
Each meal costs between Dh7 and Dh10 depending on the restaurant. “We always tell people, no amount is too small or too big,” said Zehra.
“If you cannot afford to pay for a meal, then you can always help us by volunteering.”
The chance to volunteer is posted on social media. “Every day we post details about the camps on our social media and every day we have at least 60-70 people turning up to help us,” said Zehra.
“Over the years we have had at least 400 volunteers who have helped us. There are new faces and then there are committed supporters who have helped us diligently over the years. They are our family. We usually have our iftars and suhoors together.”
At the camps, usually the distribution is set up across two tables. One is the packing station and the other is the distribution station. “Our meals usually consist of chicken biryani, fruit, yoghurt, water, dates,” said Zehra.
“The foodstuff, including the biryanis, come from different places. So we have one set of volunteers packing everything together, another set distributing it and a third set of guys who act as security.
"We also have immense support from Dubai Police and uniformed officers are always around to ensure everything goes smoothly.”
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