Ramadan, in more ways than one, is a test of human resolve. In the searing heat of summer, the faithful are not only enjoined to forgo food and water during the day but also to radiate kindness and compassion towards others. The holy month is therefore also an occasion for the expression of the best in humanity. In the UAE, its spirit transcends distinctions of nationality and even religion as people of all backgrounds come together to serve or to give to those in need.
This solidarity forged around the altruistic thrust of the holy month is exemplified by the Ramadan Sharing Fridges initiative. A volunteer operation that began in Dubai three years ago, the initiative stocks public fridges with supplies that those in need can carry home with them. Meanwhile, volunteers hand out hundreds of environmentally friendly bags filled with food and cold drinks to construction workers who labour in very high temperatures. For low-income workers, this initiative makes a tangible difference. Unlike a faceless charity, the initiative brings people face to face, illuminates for them the challenges faced by others and, in the process, deepens empathy. The growing popularity of the initiative – measurable from the fact that the fridges at its disposal have grown from 176 to 200 over the past year – accords with the burst of volunteer activity during the holy month in the UAE.
Motorists across the country would have seen charitable people – some as young as 6 – handing out meals on the roads to those racing home for iftar. Ramadan Aman, or Safe Ramadan, is an initiative run by the Ajman based Al Ihsan Charity that seeks to reduce crashes during the holy month by providing food boxes directly on the roads to people before maghrib prayers. The initiative, now in its seventh year, distributes some 70 meals at every junction. The charity also affords disabled people the opportunity to engage in service. To be greeted by a smiling face and given a box of dates, a cupcake and a bottle of water can have a remarkably calming effect on drivers caught up in the mad rush of evening traffic. This is a month of community and understanding. As a nine-year-old volunteer, Khameed Khamees, told The National, "If I could talk to one of the car drivers who speed up before iftar, I'd tell him that we are here for your safety". As we reach the halfway point of this holy month, the selflessness of those who are volunteering and giving should inspire who haven't to give – and prompt those who have to give yet more.