By Samina Saifee and M. Muhammad Ahmed
Farmington Hills, MI – On July 11 in the heat of Ramadan, hundreds of volunteers gathered at a local department store in metro-Detroit to package food for those in need. This effort along with dozens over other events are part of the month long Ramadan Fight Against Hunger organized by the Michigan Muslim Community Council (MMCC). Over 30,000 people have been fed this month across Michigan through these organized efforts to help Muslim and non-Muslim neighbors in economically devastated areas.
The Farmington Hills event was originally started 19 years ago by a group of Muslim engineers from GM, Ford and Chrysler, along with their families. This annual event has grown to an immense operation where several tons of food is packaged into over a thousand boxes and delivered by 7 trucks to over 40 communities. Over $100,000 is raised from local Zakat (charity) funds and used for purchasing and distributing the food, according to one of the organizers, Asim Khan.
“It is the culmination of all my worship as it brings together both serving humanity as well as fulfilling my spiritual obligations,” Asim Khan, said in a statement. “The food drive for me is putting my faith into action by serving the less fortunate to serve God.”
The packaged boxes include canned goods, oil, rice, flour and other basic food items that can feed a family for several days. These boxes are distributed to a network of mosques, community centers and emergency shelters in places such as Detroit, Hamtramck, Ypsilanti, Dearborn and Flint. Many areas around Metro-Detroit have suffered greatly from the recession and have been slow to recover. The Southeast Michigan United Way estimates that 1 in 5 children in this area have experienced hunger due to poverty.
The program, entirely volunteer-driven, brought the older generations together with the youth. The entire spectrum could be found working with one another, including moms, dads, children and grandparents. Volunteers were seen cheering after every big assignment had been completed, and some sang as they put the boxes together.
Asim Khan further explains, “The Prophet Muhammad (S) once said, ‘a believer’s shade on the Day of Resurrection will be his charity,’ so we all strive to make the most of Ramadan, we should be hyper-aware of our obligation to help those in need and events like this food drive provide the opportunity to do so.”
According to the Michigan Muslim Community Council chairperson, Dr. Muzammil Ahmed, “Events like these are a great way to bring together our community from all races and ethnicity, to help neighbors who are disadvantaged. We also are proud that our local Shia and Sunni community members all work together for these projects, and that is a real example for our brothers and sisters overseas”
Many Michigan non-profits participate in the Ramadan Fight Against Hunger (RFAH) campaign. Zaman International is a Michigan based charity that is also a sponsor of the campaign. Through its large warehouse in Inkster it packaged 1800 boxes of food for local families to be delivered in the beginning of Ramadan. Throughout the month, it has been distributing food, providing emergency relief to at risk women and children, and gave gift-wrapped Eid presents to almost 300 children.
Local mosques in Michigan have also been active participants in RFAH. There over a dozen food drop boxes in many mosques where approximately two tons of canned goods have been collected. In addition, hundreds of volunteers from local mosques have been visiting food pantries weekly such as Gleaners Food Pantry and the Forgotten Harvest to package thousands of pounds of food. Local Imams and youth groups have been actively encouraging their members to get involved. Osama Odeh, youth director at the Canton’s mosque, MCWS, said, “we really want the kids to get involved and get out there making a difference, not just sitting around in their homes fasting. We appreciate groups like the Michigan Muslim Council helping us coordinate all these opportunities to help others.”