Help is at hand: Thousands of volunteers provide services to hajj pilgrims

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Islam is a religion which considers serving people as an act of worship. The Prophet (peace be upon him) has said that those who are keen to alleviate the suffering of people are very dear to Allah. It is needless to speak of the rewards for serving the guests of God.

There are thousands of volunteers on hand to help to hajj pilgrims at the holy sites of Mina and Arafat during the first four days of hajj. This time, the presence of a large number of women and children was especially noticeable.

The volunteers belong to different Indian social, cultural and religious forums, such as the Jeddah Haj Welfare Forum, India Fraternity Forum (IFF), the Indian Pilgrim Welfare Forum (IPWF), Haj Cells of the Kerala Muslim Cultural Center (KMCC), Risala Study Circle and the Indian Dawa Center (IDC). As many as 250 students from the International Indian School-Jeddah have also joined them. Pilgrims from all over the world were the beneficiaries of their selfless, untiring and dedicated service.

Saudi Gazette saw these volunteers everywhere in Mina, where they have proved themselves as a source of great help and support for mainly elderly pilgrims and those who lost their way or got separated from their mahrams (blood relatives). They also served food to pilgrims and were engaged with completing the burial procedures of pilgrims who had passed away.

The credit for fielding the largest number of volunteers goes to India Fraternity Forum, which has been serving the pilgrims for the last eight years. Tipped as the most organized of the groups, the IFF fielded a total of 1,200 volunteers, including 32 women and 24 students.

The expatriate volunteers, who come from different areas in India, travel from various corners of Saudi Arabia after receiving training in voluntary field work. Some 72 teams have been assigned for field work while 34 teams served elderly and sick pilgrims in their tents, in addition to a 40-member special team deployed at Mashair train stations. They wore blue T-shirts and the saffron-colored jackets provided by the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY).

“We are getting full support from the Indian Haj Mission, which arranged accommodation for our pilgrims in Aziziyah, as well as from the Saudi authorities, especially the hajj and health ministries, and the South Asian Tawafa organization. This serves as a big boost to the morale of our dedicated volunteers,” said Ahmad Kutty, media coordinator of IFF hajj service, which began with 30 volunteers in 2005.

Jeddah IFF President Ashraf Morayur said that the timely action on the part of one of their volunteers saved one pilgrim who was nearly shut between the train and its automatic door on Tuesday.

KMCC Haj Cell has mobilized more than 1,000 volunteers. Ahmed Palayatt, President of KMCC Jeddah Central Committee and General Convener of the Haj Cell, told Saudi Gazette that their volunteers distributed rice soup to nearly 100,000 pilgrims during the last four days of hajj.

“We are also using 40 wheelchairs and two ambulances to render various types of services to pilgrims. Our volunteers are now mainly concentrating on guiding pilgrims to and fro between their camps and Jamarat,” he said.

Jeddah Haj Welfare Forum Chairman Chemban Abbas said that their volunteers assisted pilgrims who could not eat the Arab food distributed by some mutawwifs (hajj guides) in their tents in Arafat and Mina.

“We are now distributing rice soup among the pilgrims, in addition to guiding lost pilgrims to their tents and helping them to get medical aid,” he said.

The Forum, which has been serving the pilgrims since the 1990s, is an umbrella organization that represents about 20 social and cultural organizations based in Jeddah.

This article was first published in Saudi Gazette on Oct. 17, 2013.

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