Why the Community Iftaar at the University at Birmingham was so special by Hamzah Ghani
Ramadan has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always spent the holy month of fasting and religious observances at home. As a disclaimer, in no way, shape or form am I saying that the Iftaar food at UOB is better than my mum’s, and even if I did, I’d get in a lot of trouble for saying that! Just to put that out there….
This is the 3rd year of The Ramadan Project and what you do get here that a family meal can’t replicate is that feeling of community. Leading a project like this and volunteering has allowed me to see UOB’s Ramadan from a new perspective. The genuine gratitude and smiles you get from people when you get to serve them food after an 18 hour fast is something that you don’t forget. When that happens, you know that things have come together even better than anyone could have foreseen because you know that the atmosphere of togetherness and friendship is being fostered through the food people eat whilst they sit next to people they may have never spoken to outside of Ramadan. The Multi-Faith Chaplaincy becomes a central hub for exciting, unusual, and heartfelt encounters during Ramadan. You’re always meeting new people and no day feels exactly the same.
I guess the opportunity to serve and meet new people is part of what kept me in Birmingham during Ramadan. But what struck me was the generosity of students and the local community. The time they spent to prepare food so students living away from home don’t go hungry is astounding because from all the causes people could choose to give time to, they chose the students of UOB, and I’m so grateful for that. I remember a local Uzbekistani family who donated some samosas from their culture. Their young son was also a baker, and baked cookies for everyone on multiple occasions.
The community Iftaar was something else altogether. Think about what I just said and ramp it up by a thousand! Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE came together to help organise a Community Iftaar, open to all, which took place in the Green Heart. If you were there then you know how awesome it was. It was open to people of all faiths and backgrounds and was a great example of what we can achieve in the name of inclusivity, diversity, and tolerance. I can write a whole article about this, but I’m pretty sure someone already nabbed the opportunity.
These are all experiences you don’t get at home; you only get them at UOB. Birmingham is such a culturally rich, tolerant, and vibrant city, and it’s so great for that to be reflected in the experiences I’ve had leading and being a part of this project. I know that future Ramadan Projects here will be even more special than they were this year.