Culture & Lifestyle / End Hunger Now! Project Ramadan’s Canadian Initiative Helps Feed Families By The Thousands

End Hunger Now! Project Ramadan’s Canadian Initiative Helps Feed Families By The Thousands

Culture & Lifestyle May 21, 2018

Project Ramadan lets locals help locals with an inspiring community-driven food drive which happens every year during the month of Ramadan. It’s clear: Project Ramadan’s Canadian initiative helps feed families by the thousands. 

When it comes to food-driven initiatives to help battle hunger, the automatic gesture usually is towards helping those who live internationally. The dearth of locally-based outreach programs was obvious but wasn’t quite addressed. Enter Project Ramadan.

Founded in 2009 in partnership with The Muslim Welfare Centre of Toronto, Project Ramadan launched the beginning of what would be one of most active annual Canadian food drives in Ontario specifically geared to help the local community. A unique way of giving residents the opportunity to help their neighbours in need, Project Ramadan would hold various weekend “builds” with an army of team members and volunteers building food baskets filled with essential non-perishable food items for distribution across various communities. In the true spirit of Canada’s multi-cultural vibe, Project Ramadan builds food baskets for anyone in need, regardless of ethnicity, religious background or race.

 

Project Ramadan's Canadian Initiative Helps Feed Families By The Thousands
Project Ramadan’s Canadian Initiative Helps Feed Families By The Thousands: On May 5th volunteers built 650 food “baskets” in all under 90 minutes. A record.  Photo Credit: Project Ramadan

 

As with all projects, there is a time of growth and support. From building 650 food baskets with 10 team members and 50 volunteers in their first year, Project Ramadan steadily grew (with the help of expanded awareness due word of mouth coupled with their active social media campaigns) to helping 2,000 families in 2016. The following year they wanted go beyond that and they did, doubling their baskets to help 4,000 families and expanding their outreach beyond the GTA’s border by hosting builds in Hamilton and getting families from Burlington, St. Catharines and the Niagara Region involved. Last year Project Ramadan built 5,500 food baskets.

 

Project Ramadan's Canadian Initiative Helps Feed Families By The Thousands
Project Ramadan’s Canadian Initiative Helps Feed Families By The Thousands: Their successful first build for this year in Ottawa. Photo Credit: Project Ramadan

 

Project Ramadan's Canadian Initiative Helps Feed Families By The Thousands
Project Ramadan’s Canadian Initiative Helps Feed Families By The Thousands: Their tally from their second build earlier this month. Photo Credit: Project Ramadan

 

Thanks to the extensive roster of partnerships built over their own 15 years in existence, The Muslim Welfare Centre of Toronto gave Project Ramadan connections to numerous outlets to where they could contribute including food banks, community centers, women shelters, hostels, churches and mosques.

Now in their 10th year, Project Ramadan launched  their seven build weekends with their first two builds in Ottawa in late April including one at Parliament Hill. With builds going towards 40 organizations including (but not limited to) The Ottawa Food Bank, The Salvation Army, Niagara Region Food Bank, The Aboriginal Health Centre – Hamilton, Women Habitat, Victim Services – York Region, SEVA Food Bank, St. James United Church and The Muslim Association of Hamilton.

This past Spring, Project Ramadan held a glittering gala “10 Years In The Bag” to celebrate their decade-long run as well as the 25th anniversary of The Muslim Welfare Centre of Toronto.  Over 900 guests including such notables as The Honourable Ahmed D. Hussen (Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship for the Government of Canada), Nav Bhatia (The Toronto Raptors Superfan), Mark Strong aka Strizzy (In house Emcee for The Toronto Raptors) and singers Raz and Nemahsis. The event was to celebrate the strength of the community and the night also included an exclusive performance by The Daily Show Senior Correspondent Hasan Minhaj.

To date Project Ramadan has helped 15,000 families and have raised over $1 million CDN.

 

Project Ramadan's Canadian Initiative Helps Feed Families By The Thousands
Project Ramadan’s Canadian Initiative Helps Feed Families By The Thousands: 10 Years In The Bag featuring Hasan Minhaj. Photo Credit: Project Ramadan

 

I chatted with Aiysha Hussain, one of the Executive Leads for Project Ramadan.  She shared her insights on the growth of this organization, the community outreach and their plans for future.

Hina P. Ansari: Tell me more about your builds and the timeline during Ramadan.  

Aiysha Hussain: Historically the builds have happened during Ramadan.  Over the past few years Project Ramadan has expanded outside of Ramadan. We start our campaigns prior to Ramadan where we host a barbeque for the volunteers. Also, we hosted our very first Holiday Build in 2017 to help those families in need during the Christmas and Hanukkah season.

HA: How was the political and citizen support from mainstream community members?

AH: The political and citizen support from mainstream community members has exceeded our expectations. We have had and continue to have local, provincial and federal politicians support and attend many our build events.  Also, we have had an abundance of support from influential people such as Zaib Shaikh (City of Toronto Film Commissioner and Director of Entertainment Industries), who participated in a build and Nazem Kadri (from The Toronto Maple Leafs), who donated signed jerseys for our volunteers. In 2017, we hosted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau where he built food baskets with our volunteers.  This year we hosted our very first build at Parliament Hill with Members of Parliament to raise awareness about food insecurity in Canada and what The Muslim Welfare Centre of Toronto and Project Ramadan are doing to combat it.

 

Project Ramadan's Canadian Initiative Helps Feed Families By The Thousands
Project Ramadan’s Canadian Initiative Helps Feed Families By The Thousands: A team selfie with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and The Toronto Raptors Emcee Mark Strong aka Strizzy during a 2017 build. Photo Credit: Project Ramadan

 

Project Ramadan's Canadian Initiative Helps Feed Families By The Thousands
Project Ramadan’s Canadian Initiative Helps Feed Families By The Thousands: Mayor of Toronto, John Tory helps out at a recent build in Toronto. Photo Credit: Project Ramadan

 

Project Ramadan's Canadian Initiative Helps Feed Families By The Thousands
Project Ramadan’s Canadian Initiative Helps Feed Families By The Thousands: Zaib Shaikh and his personalized jersey during a Project Ramadan build in 2017. Photo Credit: Project Ramadan

 

Project Ramadan's Canadian Initiative Helps Feed Families By The Thousands
Project Ramadan’s Canadian Initiative Helps Feed Families By The Thousands: Leader of the NDP Party Jagmeet Singh with Project Ramadan’s Executive leads Talha Ahmed (left) and Aiysha Hussain (right) at a build in 2017. Photo Credit: Project Ramadan

 

HA: What’s the goal this year?

AH: This year Project Ramadan’s goal is to build 6,500 food baskets and to raise $350,000 CDN to help families.

HA: How did Hasan Minhaj get involved with your “10 In The Bag” gala?

AH: We reached out to his team and discussed what Project Ramadan was doing to combat food insecurity. He was very intrigued by what the Muslim youth was doing for the greater community. He saw footage from several of our builds including the build with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He saw the impact the project had and wanted to contribute to its success.

Hasan was extremely humble and down to earth. He took the time to speak with our team and discussed how important it is to get involved and give back to the community. He was extremely happy to be a part of our 10 year celebrations.

 

Project Ramadan's Canadian Initiative Helps Feed Families By The Thousands
Project Ramadan’s Canadian Initiative Helps Feed Families By The Thousands: A full house of 900 guests at their “10 Years In The Bag” celebratory evening featuring Hasan Minhaj. Photo Credit: Project Ramadan

 

Project Ramadan's Canadian Initiative Helps Feed Families By The Thousands
Project Ramadan’s Canadian Initiative Helps Feed Families By The Thousands: The Honourable Ahmed D. Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship with Toronto Raptors Superfan Nav Bhatia. Photo Credit: Project Ramadan

 

Project Ramadan's Canadian Initiative Helps Feed Families By The Thousands
Project Ramadan’s Canadian Initiative Helps Feed Families By The Thousands: Executive Director of The Muslim Welfare Centre of Toronto, Shahid Khan speaks at the “10 Years In The Bag” gala event. Photo Credit: Project Ramadan

 

Project Ramadan's Canadian Initiative Helps Feed Families By The Thousands
Project Ramadan’s Canadian Initiative Helps Feed Families By The Thousands: Nemahsis featuring Raz on stage at “10 Years In The Bag” gala evening. Photo Credit: Project Ramadan

 

Project Ramadan's Canadian Initiative Helps Feed Families By The Thousands
Project Ramadan’s Canadian Initiative Helps Feed Families By The Thousands: Hasan Minhaj and Aiysha Hussain with her brother Mohsen Hussain (an Executive team member) with Project Ramadan supporters at the “10 Years In The Bag” gala event. Photo Credit: Project Ramadan

 

HA: What is Project Ramadan’s goals for this year and the near future?

AH: This year Project Ramadan’s goal is to help 6,500 families and over the next 5 years we plan to expand the project nationally, open different chapters in various cities across the country, help more Indigenous families and combat food insecurity on a systemic level.

HA: Have you received any hate/xenophobic remarks from others when they hear what you are doing considering that it’s a Muslim organization?

AH: We have received many hate and xenophobic remarks especially on social media. Many people are unaware that as a Muslim group that we are trying to promote diversity and inclusion by helping families in need regardless of race, religion or ethnicity. Many of the remarks are based on biases and lack of knowledge or understanding of what Project Ramadan is or does.

 

Project Ramadan’s Complete 2018 Build Schedule

Build #1: April 22nd at Ottawa Food Bank.

Build  #2: April 23 at  Parliament Hill

Build #3: May 5th at The Muslim Welfare Centre of Toronto

Build #4: May 12th at The Muslim Welfare Centre of Toronto

Build #5: May 19th at The Muslim Welfare Centre of Toronto

Build #6: May 26th at Pickering Islamic Centre

Build #7: June 2nd at Muslim Association of Hamilton

 

 

If you would like to donate funds or register for an upcoming build, visit the official site at www.projectramadan.com for detailed information. To register for a build create a free MyPR Account on the site. Registration for each build opens one week prior to the build at 10:00 AM.

 

And you can also follow Project Ramadan on their various social media channels

Instagram: @projectramadan

Facebook: @projectramadan

Twitter: @Project_Ramadan

Website: www.projectramadan.com

Email: Contact@projectramadan.com

 

Main Image Photo Credit: Project Ramadan 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hina P. Ansari

Hina P. Ansari

Author

Hina P. Ansari is a graduate from The University of Western Ontario (London, Ontario). Since then she has carved a successful career in Canada's national fashion-publishing world as the Entertainment/Photo Editor at FLARE Magazine, Canada's national fashion magazine. She was the first South Asian in...

COMMENTS

Newsletter Sign Up

Subscribe to our FREE newsletter for all of the latest news, articles, and videos delivered directly to your inbox each day!