Were you one of the fortunate individuals this Ramadan to enjoy congregational prayers in a beautiful masjid with organised community meals, tranquil qiyaam recitations, daily halaqas, free baby sitting and youth programs…all in an inviting, peaceful, clean, secure, and vibrant Islamic community centre?
For the entire month, 1,500 to 2,000 people were regularly welcomed to pray, break their fast, and enjoy a multitude of services at the ISNA Centre of Canada.
Our colorful, diverse congregation also received a beautiful gift with the launching of a new Ramadan website dedicated to keeping everyone informed of all the programs and services offered in Ramadan at ISNA Canada. The month concluded with the Eid day prayers and service for over 5,000 worshippers.
But have you ever wondered what it takes to make all this happen smoothly, round the clock, for an entire month? Would you like to know the surprising truth about those who help us meet the diverse needs of our community?
I invite you to take a “behind the scenes” look at our Ramadan journey. At the onset of Ramadan, many of us experience a frenzy of shopping, planning, and cooking meals in anticipation for Ramadan. Some of us make personal plans for finer spiritual and physical goals. And then there are the ‘chosen’ ones who also help to serve the community – our blessed volunteers! For over thirty-three continuous days and nights of Ramadan – our noble team of brothers and sisters accept the challenge to dedicate their time and talents to delivering a successful Ramadan program for the congregation!
Prior to Ramadan, almost 120 volunteers ranging in ages from 14 to 70 attended specialised training.
Here is what they agreed to do:
- Organise parking of cars
- Ushering crowds
- I’tikaaf management
- Provide suhoor and iftaar services
- Collections of donations and fundraising
- Serve and manage volunteers
- Deliver Dawre-Quran teachings
- Provide lost and found service
- Ensure the security and safety of people and belongings
- Manage the youth
- Provide regular updates through social media and websites
- Practice Islamic etiquettes of volunteering and handling issues
- Organise sweet distributions on special nights
- Communicate and support each other on the teams
The real action commenced on the first night of taraweeh but the real test came the following evening. It was the first day of fasting and our first community iftar where 800 individuals were served by a team of 65 volunteers! With these two events successfully behind us we had developed a team of pros to take on the rest of Ramadan!
The first 10 days bubbled by quickly with enthusiasm. Everyone swiftly learned the ropes and settled into routines – I sensed their special joy at having personalised name tags and getting to know new people and faces! I also observed the transformation into high performance teams – from babysitting to car parking, everyone performed like clockwork!
There was a special ritual established where our shuyookh (Sh. Abdalla Idris, Sh. Alaa Elsayed, Sh. Huzaifah Khan, and Sh. AbdulAziz Rasoul) regularly stopped by the volunteer services room at the end of taraweeh prayers. This was a sweet time to have tea and snacks, exchange happy news, and request community support for their work. It was also an opportunity for wonderful memories and photographs! This was also the icing on the cake when the volunteers started eagerly packing up around 1am!
During the next 10 days, the volunteers resolve remained high although the attendance from the congregation seemed to wane at taraweeh prayers. The iftar volunteers ran an impressive marathon schedule feeding 700 – 1,000 individuals regularly – all the coaching and planning had paid off!
The final 10 days proved to be the toughest with long days and short nights. This was physically exhausting when combined with the additional scheduling of qiyaam-ul-lail (nightly prayers) and larger crowds. The volunteers however seemed undeterred. I was quietly impressed with the teams’ patience and ability to maintain high spirit and standards for serving the community. Fundraising on the 27th and 29th nights followed by sweet distribution was a breeze as we had help from over 50 volunteers.
Eventually, the blessed month ended and this was marked by the high school volunteers receiving their coveted community hours. The most resilient volunteers also signed up to help with the challenges on Eid Day! The day commenced with pouring rain but the adversity created a stronger bond in the team. We hosted over 5,500 worshippers, distributed candy, and collected fitra and donations for the community.
Looking back and behind the scenes of this year’s Ramadan activities, I can attest to the power of their exemplary team work and volunteerism in the community. After meshing together for more than 30 days, a wonderful new combination of individuals with special characteristics and personalities emerged; volunteers showed their confidence as leaders; polished, groomed, and able to go the extra mile. I observed mutual respect and life-long friendships being forged between many – for some of us this is the true value of volunteerism!
Next time you are served by a volunteer, please include them in your prayers and do take a moment to encourage and cooperate with them. Also remember many of them are highly educated and experts in their respective fields; physicians, chiropractors, realtors, project managers, business dealers and specialists in social media, information technology, and other professions. We need all of them to continue bringing us their incredible talent and serve as role models for our youth.
This article is dedicated to our amazing Ramadan 2014 volunteer team as a tribute and to recognize and value all their commitment, sacrifice, and perseverance. I pray that Allah SWT accepts all their efforts in His way.
If you would like to join us as a volunteer please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you have a special story about our volunteer service? Please share in the comments below