I’ve always understood Ramadan to be a time when Muslim families come together to fast, offer prayers and do good deeds.
But this year my eyes have been opened to the efforts of others from outside the community to support their Muslim friends and neighbours during the holy month.
From schools collecting groceries to donate to Muslim families living in poverty to people choosing to break their fast with the homeless while handing out donations, if there’s one thing Ramadan in the UK has shown me, it’s that love is far stronger than hate.
And one of those people proving there’s more that unites us than divides us is Sally Nunwick, the head teacher of Moss Park School in Manchester, UK.
Having watched the success of her pupil’s “reverse advent calendar” over the Christmas period, Sally said she knew her pupils would be keen to support a similar project over Ramadan.
She says: “We are a community school and 50 per cent of the children are Muslim, Hindu or Sikh. When I do assemblies I try to link aspects of different faiths to show how similar we all are. For example, when we talk about Easter, I mention how my daughter gives up yoghurt for Lent and we compare it to Ramadan and the things parents give up.
“We had an idea at Christmas to do a reverse advent calendar, where instead of the children getting something every day, they donated something and, at the end of the month, these items were taken to the food bank. It occurred to me we could do the same for Ramadan.”
Sally says the pupils were more than happy to get involved and can’t wait to fill their boxes with donations.
She adds: “As well as educating the children that not everyone has what they have, we hope doing things like this will build a community where everybody respects each other.”
Donations are being taken to Barakah Food Aid, a project set up to provide food parcels to people who are struggling in and around the city of Manchester.
During the Holy month, the project puts together special Ramadan parcels for Muslim families who are living in poverty.
Founder of the initiative, Muhammad Manzoor Ali says he particularly appreciates it when children bring donations.
“I think it’s just amazing,” he says.
“I love it when schools make contact with us because what we do starts at a grass roots level – our motto is for the people by the people. When children and young people get involved in doing good like this it can help steer them away from doing bad things in the future because they realise they are connected with their communities and can make a difference.”
And Muhammad says the support from the community remains consistent throughout the year – regardless of who the parcels are going to.
He adds: “We make food parcels all year round but over the years it became apparent to me that, in Ramadan, there were families struggling to feed themselves when they broke their fast, hardly having anything to break their fast, so we make up parcels for the Muslim community during Ramadan.
“Some kids say they feel worthless but when they do this they realise how much of an impact they can make. I also think that the children knowing what they have collected is helping people around them is great – we get referrals from many different people and these children could end up helping children in their own school without knowing it – that’s just lovely.”