Two years ago, while cleaning and putting away his coffee cup in preparation for Ramadan, Toronto lawyer and activist Ziyaad Mia had an idea. He wanted to celebrate the spirit of Ramadan by encouraging people to fight hunger during the annual month of fasting.
“It struck me that many people in Ramadan are not spending money on lunches or coffee anymore,” he explained, “So I thought: why don’t we move those savings to fight hunger by donating to food banks?”
He called the initiative Give 30, and it is now in its second year.
Ramadan begins June 28, which is this Saturday, and everyone can once again participate in this initiative to combat hunger in Canada. This is the second year that Give 30 is encouraging and motivating people of all backgrounds to donate to food banks during the month of Ramadan.
Ramadan is the holy month of daily fasting for Muslims all across the world. Mia and over a billion other Muslims will abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset.
“Ramadan is tailor-made to fight and understand hunger,” he said. “Then it is to understand that people in our community, whatever their faith, that are going hungry.”
The celebration of Ramadan is a month to build the spiritual connection with the creator but also, he added, it’s a time to appreciate the importance of food, to give thanks for it, and to not be wasteful.
This year, the Give 30 campaign has reached out to food banks across the country. It is working with 11 food banks across Canada, including Vancouver, Ottawa and Winnipeg.
Samantha Ingram is the communications coordinator at the Ottawa Food Bank, and says this is the first year the food bank will be participating in the campaign.
“It’s an exciting initiative,” she said, “it comes at a perfect time, when donations are traditionally a bit lower in the summer, so Ramadan falls at a great time where it’s an amazing opportunity to encourage people to give.”
Last year, Give 30 managed to bring in $90,000 in donations. This year, Mia is hoping the campaign will be just as successful.
Give 30 is open to everyone — a person does not have to observe Ramadan to donate to food banks through the campaign. Hunger is a national problem, so it requires a national response, from all people all across Canada, said Mia.
“I’m inviting all Canadians to join me in a united effort to address this problem that we all share. Hunger in this country touches all sorts of people.”
Mia’s commitment to fighting hunger is not exclusive to Ramadan. He has and will continue to participate in food drives during Christmas and Easter to continue the fight against hunger in the country, he said.
The “amazing universal principle” of Ramadan, said Mia, is shared among people of all faiths and those who do not partake in a faith.
“I think grassroots action is crucial to any social change or transformation,” Mia said, “Whatever the issue is. Hunger is obviously a concern in Canada. People may not think that’s the case, but it is.”
Mia said he relies on both big and small donations because together they build sustainability. He added that solidarity is crucial for the success of the campaign.
“Part of what I’m trying to do is to get people to buy into the fact that there is a problem with hunger,” he said, “Get people to buy into the fact that we need public policy solutions and structural solutions that drive poverty and hunger in this country.”
“Nobody goes to food banks by choice,” he added. “There is a great need.”
Miriam Katawazi is a fourth-year journalism and human rights student at Carleton University and rabble’s news intern. She has a strong passion for human rights and social justice in Canada and across the world. Her writing focuses on health, labour, education and human rights beats.