2 weeks back, I celebrated Eid along with 2 billion Muslims around the globe. I have to say, in all my 29 years, I have never experienced a more Bizarre Eid than the one we celebrated in 2020.
Eid, a day of great celebration in the Muslim world, was solemn and somber this year. I imagine it was the same for people of other faiths who were deprived of Easter, Passover, Good Friday, and other religious events in the year so far.
The novel Coronavirus has cast a dark cloud of despair and hopelessness across the globe. Apart from special occasions, even our daily lives have come to a screeching halt due to this persistent virus. Combined with news of solar snoozes, locust attacks, a slowing economy, and rising unemployment, 2020 is turning out to be one of the worst years in modern history.
Given these facts, it is hardly a surprise that mental health issues are spiking worldwide. I am not immune to its effects either; I become more anxious and depressed, the more I sit at home. So one day, two weeks before Eid, I decided to shake the dark clouds and take control of the things that I could change.
All over the world, communities were rallying together to help the underprivileged people suffering most from this pandemic. Motivated by these inspirational stories, I decided to do the same.
Here is what happened:
Identifying People Who Needed Help
The Coronavirus pandemic and resulting social distancing lockdowns affected daily wage earners the most. Around us, we see people who are directly affected by the lack of jobs during the quarantine. Maids are no longer needed, gardeners, plumbers, construction workers, drivers, and small scale vendors are all out of commission.
With the source of their income suspended, these people did not have enough money to live out the month. They did not have sufficient funds to pay rent, pay hospital bills, and even to buy groceries.
With the help of my friends and family, I identified these people in my community. Since it was a small scale operation, I used word of mouth and family connection to identify people who required help.
Gathering Funds in a Pandemic
The next step was to gather funds. Lucky for me, in a Muslim state, collecting funds for a good cause is not that difficult, especially in the holy month of Ramadan. People willingly give Zakat, a kind of religious tax on one’s income.
We reached out to friends, family members, and community members to help gather the funds. I have to say, community members were excellent help! I connected with them on the community’s Facebook group, and people responded positively. Not only money, but people were also willing to offer their expertise in any way that could help!
Spreading Some Eid Joy
Once we had collected funds, we decided to distribute funds in the following way:
· Distribution Rations
I bought and delivered grocery sufficient to sustain a family for one month to 67 families in the local community.
· Helping people find work
I decided to help the daily wage earners find work so they can have a source of income during the pandemic. To this end, I helped them find jobs in the local community that were available despite the pandemic. I taught them to maintain social distancing and hygiene protocols to remain safe.
· Helping local sellers go online
I also asked community members skilled in digital marketing and software development to help small scale local vendors set up online shops so to keep their businesses going.The biggest challenge here was that most people did not have the infrastructure required for Ecommerce; they didn’t have a computer or a stable internet connection. While I couldn’t get them coax cable connections, I made do with mobile internet and mobile E-commerce.
· Distributing Eidi Goodie Bags
Finally, I distributed goodie bags containing Eid staples such as sweets, bangles, Henna cones, and jewelry items for kids in the house. Nobody should have a sad eid!
I am a self-declared social recluse, and before the pandemic, I could not have imagined collaborating a good-will drive of this scale. I am shy and hesitant, it is very hard for me to communicate with people naturally.
However, this pandemic made me step out of my comfort zone because I believe it is absolutely necessary for people to come together and help each other out to hold on to our humanity. When we come out the other end of this pandemic, many things will change permanently, but our kindness and love for one another should never change.