This week I am in Ndola my home city. After living in a couple of different countries around the world I can definitely tell you that there is no place like home. Fortunately, for me ,this year I am home during the holy month of Ramadan with my family. Ramadan is not just about fasting from before sunrise to sunset, it is so much more than that. Ramadan for me is the month of spirituality, reflection, charity, discipline and community. I also like the way in which my good friend Nicholas Oniwon puts it he says,”it is a time to be extra cheerful, thankful and generous to the less privileged, it helps the faithful feel connected to their maker”. I think his definition is spot on.
Before I left for my trip to Zambia from London a friend of mine Omar Salha (SOAS masters graduate) shared with me a project idea which he was starting up for Ramadan, it was called the “Ramadan Tent”. The idea of this Ramadan Tent was to provide a free iftar (breaking of fast) each day (30 days) to the general public, students, teachers and the homeless community who are often ostracized by society. He said, “the aim of this project was to give people a better understanding of the spirit and essence of Ramadan and create greater cross-community cohesion and understanding.” The Ramadan Tent is held everyday during the month of ramadan at University of London SOAS.
When I got back to Zambia I would often see many posts on facebook about the Ramadan Tent and how it was attracting more and more people each day and it really got me inspired how Omar Salha and his group of volunteers who fast almost 18 hours each day come together and set up this tent to break fast with a whole range of different people. I thought to myself what a great initiative surely I can put something like this together here in Zambia, where I know an idea like this would be very much appreciated by many people. (In Zambia a large number of the population don’t even have access to clean water.) So I shared this idea with my family and they were all for it. I decided I was going to host a one day “Ramadan Tent, Ndola Zambia” an open iftar inviting both the muslim and non- muslim communities here in Ndola.
At first, I was a little skeptical if I would be able to put all this together in a short period of time and me being able to get sponsors was my biggest worry. However, to my surprise, the response which I received from donors was overwhelming and incredible.I couldn’t believe that in a span of a week I had received so many donations. One of the sponsors even told me that they were so impressed with the idea and they felt it was a great way for them to give back to their community. We prepared one hundred iftar packs each consisting of dates, fruits, a drink,water,biscuits, chips and egg rolls we also provided a hot meal after the Magrib prayer to all our guests. We had a variety of people. Youth from the rehabilitation centre, Christians and Muslims all gathered at the Ramadan Tent in Northrise Park. It was such a beautiful and humbling sight seeing everyone sit down together, people making new friends and just enjoying a lovely evening together. It didn’t matter what race, religion or socio-economic background you were from at the Ramadan Tent it was like we were all just one big Zambian family.
A simple idea from across the world was now being implemented in another country, and making lots of people happy how cool is that,(Thank you Mr. Salha for your amazing idea from all of us in Ndola) new friends were being made, people sharing a meal together and learning about different cultures. The guest of honor Ndola Mayor Davies Chiwala said that it was so wonderful to see so many people from different townships all around Ndola gather together for a meal. He said he was very thankful to the muslim community for putting together this iftar for the people of Ndola and hopes we can always continue to be one united Zambia no matter what race or religion we are.
It was definitely a challenge to put together, I must admit but it was all well worth it! With that being said, I must commend Omar Salha and his wonderful group of volunteers who have put together Ramadan Tent the whole month it is definitely something to be very proud of. So as you can see as the diaspora we are able to bring new ideas to Zambia and implement them here in our country so our people can also benefit from great ideas and initiatives like these, all we need is one idea to at least make a little difference. Happy Eid everyone.