A Typical Serve Day Volunteer Experience at the Soup Kitchen
Fifteen Muslim youth age 10 to 16 with 5 adults on Sept 3rd joined the “Muslims Against Hunger Project” to help feed homeless, hungry and working poor. This was a special Muslim community event to remember 911 and honor the 911 victims and their families.
They came from Somerville Bridgewater, Hillsboro, Boonton, Piscataway, and Allentown in Pennsylvania . Raheel Siddiq from Bernards took charge to prepare salad with the help of her teen aged daughter Yusra, 15 and Emma,13 from Hillsboro. Akbar Mirza who came all the way from Allentown Pennsylvania got busy in opening the soup cans with the help of 10 and 15 year old Athar brothers drove in by their Aunt Shazia Sattar from Hillsboro. Aysha Hassan a young high school teacher with the help of her 15 year old brother Ali Hassan started cutting serve size cake pieces and setting up on 125 plates. While 25 years old Zulfi took a day off from work and joined the group in washing 200 pieces of oranges and bananas for distribution to the soup kitchen guests. A couple of volunteers ran down to the nearby Khan Hallal Market and brought 400 pieces of tandoori chicken and rice pilaf.
Around 11:30am all the food is ready to be served, Zamir Hassan the team Capitan asks every one to come out of the kitchen and sit in a circle in the dinning room. He talks to the volunteers and says “It’s Islamic tradition to feed the poor and the needy in any event of our life, today, we are here to remember 911 in the Islamic tradition, The need is there, you can see out side the window there are more than 100 men women and children lined up to get into the dinning hall, they are homeless, hungry and working poor, let us go behind the serving table and take charge of one of the serving station”. Ali Chaudry former Mayor from Baskin Ridge, Dr Amant, Wahid and Shazia Sattar offered prayers for the 911 victims and their families, all volunteers and soup kitchen worker joined in the prayers.
The door opens at 11:45am and food serving starts. The dinning hall is packed with 120 people. Betty calls the attention of the soup kitchen guests and announces “today’s lunch is being served by the Muslims to remember 911” the dinning hall fills up with a round of applause.
Its 1:00pm, all the volunteers are invited to have lunch with the left over from today’s serving. Aysha Hassan wants to come back again, and wants every one to do this more often, Thakur cousins from Bontoon were very happy to come and want to come back. Now its time to clean up all the volunteers get busy cleaning up the tables, floors and kitchen.
My One day at the Soup Kitchen
Winston Churchill once said “We make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give.”This is the quote that crossed my mind when I decided to take off a day from work and contribute that time for the greater good of our community.I felt enthusiastic that morning when I woke up and realized that that was the day I was going to volunteer at the soup kitchen in Morristown, NJ.Finally, I got this opportunity after years of being interested in contributing my time to help out others in need.Although I reached out to other non-profit organizations in the past, I felt rejected when nobody responded to any of my e-mails or voice messages.After moving to New Jersey a year and a half ago, however, United Community Development Center (UCDC) a sponsor of “Muslims Against Hunger Project” showed a genuine interest and appreciation for my time and skills.In addition to the many new programs they are initiating, they are also planning on starting a new soup kitchen program in Hackensack, NJand felt it would be good for volunteers to gain experience at the current soup kitchen in Morristown.
My excitement and enthusiasm got me to the soup kitchen about 45 minutes earlier than I needed to be there.I arrived at 9:15 am and met Rehan, who was already inside the kitchen and planning out the day.Rehan was basically our “go-to” person and is highly involved in the organization of the Morristownsoup kitchen for Muslims Against Hunger Project .She pointed me in the right direction and informed me of my tasks.I was to prepare the salad and serve fruits once everyone arrived.As I was chopping the vegetables, more volunteers started arriving.Before I knew it, the kitchen was filled with volunteers, busy in preparing lunch.The soup was brewing, the chicken and rice were cooking, the vegetables were being chopped, the bread and butter were being prepared, and the baklawa dessert was being arranged into serving trays.We set everything out in the dining hall, and Rehan helped us get organized into an assembly line.Prayers were said by the volunteers right before the doors opened to a crowd of hungry people.One by one they entered and walked towards us for servings.I was happy to see that many of them appeared to be joyful and had a great sense of humor, yet others were grumpy and could not look me in the eye. Although I faced many various personalities that day, I attempted to be consistent with mine.I was aware that they must have faced many hardships, and I felt that maintaining a cheerful environment was what they needed.We called out for seconds, and another group of hungry people came towards us.All were well-mannered and patiently waiting in line.Many of them came to us and gave us a heartfelt “thank you” with a look of genuine appreciation in their eyes. After about two hours, the dining hall cleared out, and we began cleaning up.The volunteers concluded the day by sharing a meal together before heading home.
I have to admit that coming from a middle-class family and a comfortable lifestyle, this experience helped me to learn how sheltered I was.Not everyone is as fortunate as I am, but that should not give me reason to feel unaffected by the plight of the less fortunate.Instead, I feel grateful for what I have, but I now also have an increased awareness and interest in helping others, like the people I had met that day.I felt like a different person on my way home.I thought about all the people to whom I served food, with their appreciative expressions on their faces.I felt like there was a glow in my heart, a glow of happiness for helping make a difference.It was that feeling that would push me to contribute my time for this cause all over again.
NJ Star Ledgeron-line Blog Posted by Anisa Mehdi December 23, 2007 12:23PM
Muslims Against Hunger
Last Thursday I tore myself away from my desk - the piles of notes and contracts for a film festival I'm producing, the rewrites of a short film series already overdue, the fundraising letter for a major documentary project - and did something REAL. I volunteered in a soup kitchen.
With a dozen other Muslims I donned an apron denoting "Muslims Against Hunger," and helped out at the Community Soup Kitchen of Morristown. This soup kitchen is an ecumenical effort supported and run by funding and volunteers from 34 Christian and Jewish congregations, local and corporate from the greater Morristown area, and a smattering of Muslims led by Zamir Hassan, who was elected Vice President and Trustee of the Community Soup Kitchen in 2006. Mr. Hassan is coordinator of the Muslims Against Hunger Project (www.muslimsagainsthungerusa.org) and has succeeded in making New Jersey Muslims a regular presence in this important social service.
Muslims Against Hunger was serving hot lunches to working poor and homeless last September on a special "Muslims Serve Day" - honoring the victims and families of the tragedy of September 11, 2001. They were serving through the month of Ramadan, when helping to feed the hungry enhances the blessing of the fast.
I chose this particular opportunity to help out because it was Eid el Adha, the "Feast of the Sacrifice." While Eid el Fitr, the celebration at the end of the month of Ramadan is becoming known in America, Eid al Adha goes largely unnoticed by the general public. Eid al Adha celebrates the end of the Hajj or Mecca pilgrimage that Muslims are supposed to make once in a lifetime if they are financially or physically able.
The "sacrifice" in the title of the holiday comes from the Biblical story of Abraham who was asked to show his loyalty to his Lord by offering his son in sacrifice. At the last moment a ram was presented for Abraham to kill and his son was spared. This redemption is a central celebration of the Muslim pilgrimage, and this year it occurred last week, conveniently nestled between Hanukah and Christmas.
So alongside Raheel, Salwa, Isa and Daoud, I set tables to accommodate 200 guests. We poured scores of glasses of milk. Sliced tens of loaves of bread. And finally, the best part, served hot tandoori chicken (from the Taj Restaurant in Edison), scented rice, corn, salad and dessert to lots and lots and lots of people. The line wrapped around the large fellowship hall annex of Morristown's Church of the Redeemer.
It took no time to discover that many of the guests responded happily to hearing "Buenos dias" and "Feliz Navidad." Two guests greeted us with "Salaam 'alaykum," the Muslim "hello" that translates as "peace be with you." Men and women welcomed their lunch with dignity and smiles. Men and women served them lunch with humility and gladness.
For all the important things I think I do as a film producer and consultant on inter-cultural and inter-faith matters, it all comes down to participating with others in goodness. As Muslims, indeed as humanists, we are mandated to compete in doing good for one another. Giving a day of my time was no sacrifice at all.
About the Author
Anisa Mehdi is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, media consultant and independent film producer. She directed "Inside Mecca" for National Geographic Television, executive produced "Muslims" for PBS Frontline, writes commentary for National Public Radio, and teaches at Seton Hall University. Anisa is an interfaith activist and plays the flute for fun. Mehdi writes about NJ Muslims in politics, culture, international affairs and interreligious engagement.
On-line Blog -- Thoughts of a Hijaabi
Posted by Fatoma Rad on January 1, 2008
You know time is such an interesting thing. One second, one minute, one hour, one day, one week, one year-they all go by so fast and we can never get any of it back. So this break I learned the importance of time and how we need to spend our time wisely. In the beginning of December I posted about the Muslims Against Hunger project. I heard about it before but couldn’t go, yesterday was the second time they fed people and I am so happy that I took part in such a project.
Hamdulillah there was a total of 41 volunteers that prepared and served hot meals to 330 working poor, senior citizens, and other needy guests. When I first got there I was so happy to see that there were so many Muslims ready to help- and even happier to see some familiar faces I signed in, was a bit confused at first with what to do, after all this was my first time volunteering at a soup kitchen, but Br. Zamir (the brother in charge of all of this) helped us out,told us what to do, and got us to work. As I began to cover the tables I looked out the doors and was pretty shocked at what I saw.
I grew up on Long Island, but my parents would always take me back to the city, I’ve seen people who don’t have much or anything, but still for some reason yesterday it just really hit me. I looked at the line outside, the people waiting on line shivering outside in the cold, waiting for food. I guess looking at the line of people, realizing that these people are only about 30 minutes away from where I live and they don’t have the luxury of being able to chose what they want to eat, or of being able to go the fridge any time and get what they want to eat kind of hit me hard when I saw families come in with kids. I mean if I’m ever hungry I can go to the fridge, or the numerous cupboards, or the basement which is FULL of food and get what I want without trouble.
Hamdulillah it was juss such a productive day. As I walked to my car with a big goofy smile on my face I was so happy with what I did. It’s juss an experience that can’t really be explained, it’s a great feeling to know that you have juss done something that has helped out another. I think volunteering at a soup kitchen is something that everyone should try.
InshaAllah I think there will be another opportunity coming up around March, inshaAllah I’ll post it again. Until then try to to go out and volunteer for a bit it’s a great experience and sadaqah I used to volunteer a lot more in high school, I think I’m going to start doing that again.
Just look around at all the blessings that Allah has provided us with. The house we live in, the food we have stocked, on the table, and in our bellies are all blessings that we need to always have in mind and always need to give thanks for. We have so many ‘extra’s,’ thing’s that we don’t need, you know things that we want, but hamdulillah we have it anyway. Try to always remember Allah, and always give thanks- when I was little I was told, a little thanks can go a long way and it’s true. Make good niyyah and inshaAllah we will all be rewarded in the akhirah.
Take care inshaAllah.
A Sample of Volunteer Duties
Volunteer duties from 9:00am - 11:30 a.m.
•Turn on exhaust fans and preheat ovens
Volunteer Duties from 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
• Place only items to be served immediately on serving tables; keep the rest in the ovens. Keep hot food covered when not actually serving.
• Help yourself to lunch from the leftover food