A Ramadan day in the life of a charity worker

A Ramadan day in the life of a charity worker

By Hassam Munir

When you work for a Muslim charity and it’s Ramadan, it can be tough to figure out when your day begins and when it ends.

For simplicity’s sake, let’s start at the pre-dawn meal.

While most Canadians are getting their beauty sleep by 3 AM, I – a typical employee at Canada’s largest Muslim charity – am one of more than a million Canadian Muslims who are rolling out of bed and dragging themselves, half-asleep, to the kitchen.

It’s like a scene straight out of a zombie movie.

I should keep the meal filling but simple.

I won’t be eating or drinking anything—yes, not even water—until sunset, and there’s a busy day ahead at work, since Ramadan is the time of year in which Muslims are most charitable.

So I try make the effort to eat clean, food that will keep me energized. Fruits, eggs… maybe with a small side of pancakes, maple syrup, and chocolate.

As the time winds down on the shot-clock, I gulp down a big glass of water in one of the most clutch performances in Ramadan playoffs history.

The call to prayer goes off on my phone.

I pray the morning prayers and then take some time in these peaceful early hours of the day to reflect on yesterday and think about what I can do to improve myself today.

Ramadan, after all, is essentially about temporarily opting out on some of life’s pleasures so that you can refocus on on the deeper meaning and higher purpose of life.

Depending on how tired I am from last night, I will either go back to sleep for a few more hours, or pull out my laptop and start to plan out the day.

In Ramadan, every moment counts.

As a Muslim, my work and my personal practice of my faith are intertwined, and I have only a month to make the best of both.

Today, I have to prepare for our upcoming fundraising gala, then attend an interfaith iftar and help fundraise at a mosque during the night prayers.

I decide to sleep on all this, and am up and ready to go again at 9 AM.

It’s a beautiful day. I’m hoping that everything will go smoothly.

Every Ramadan in recent years, Islamic Relief Canada has organized fundraising galas across the country.

My colleagues in major cities such as Halifax, Montreal, Edmonton, and Vancouver are confirming that the motivational speakers they have invited are ready for the events.

The program is always tight, as everyone is too exhausted to start too early and too hungry to focus past the iftar, or breaking of the fast, at sunset.

After several hours of making calls, updating Asana (our online project management system), and squeezing in a quick nap, it looks like we’re all set for the gala.

In between it all, I am always thinking about any stones left unturned in inspiring already generous Canadians to give even more to help those in need—because that’s how much, and how dire, the need is.

Next, I get ready to attend the interfaith iftar that is being organized by a local synagogue.

Ramadan is a great time to build community, learn about the different traditions of Canadians, and share delicious meals.

The synagogue has organized a great program tonight.

This is important, because by this time, after more than 16 hours of fasting, it takes a weapon of mass distraction to keep the mind off of your growling stomach.

The clock’s hands seem to suddenly be moving in slo-mo. And then, the sun sets.

Thirst is quenched and hope is restored.

We eat, we drink (water, that is), we pray, we eat some more, and then I have to get ready for the night shift.

Thankfully, someone ordered biryani!

At night, many Muslims head to the mosque to pray.

In the summer, these prayers often stretch past midnight.

This is a great time to appeal to Muslims’ spurt of generosity during Ramadan and ask them to give to help some of the most disadvantaged people in the world.

It is always inspiring how selflessly they give, and tonight is no exception.

As I set up my table near the entrance to the mosque, they are already picking up pledge cards or dropping money into the box.

My colleagues and I have worked diligently to establish Islamic Relief Canada as a credible, donation-worthy charity, and they know that.

Many of them have questions about how we carry out our work, but I’m prepared and eager to answer them; after all, the more they know about just how much need there really is around the world—in places such as Yemen, Syria, and Myanmar—the more inclined they will be to give.

By around midnight, the fundraiser is wrapping up.

Based on experience, I can tell that it has been a good collection.

I head home for a quick nap. It’s almost time to go again.

Hassam Munir is part of the External Relations team at Islamic Relief Canada.