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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Volunteers hand out 600,000 meals during Ramadan to ease iftar rush 

Ramadan Aman, which means Safe Ramadan, aims to reduce the number of crashes that occur during the iftar rush hour.

Ramadan Aman participant Iyad hands an iftar box to a passenger near Al Wahda Mall in Abu Dhabi. Pawan Singh / The National 
Ramadan Aman participant Iyad hands an iftar box to a passenger near Al Wahda Mall in Abu Dhabi. Pawan Singh / The National 

As dusk falls in Ramadan, 70 volunteers patrol traffic junctions across the UAE as they hand out iftar meals to slow down motorists’ racing wheels before maghrib prayers.

Ramadan Aman, which means Safe Ramadan, aims to reduce the number of crashes that occur during the iftar rush hour. The campaign, by Al Ihsan Charity Association, a non-profit organisation based in Ajman, is in its seventh year.

A blast from a police officer’s whistle cues volunteers to rush between cars. Child volunteers are accompanied by a member of Sanid, the National Emergency Response Volunteer Programme.

Just before iftar, two cousins power-walked across the street with boxes stacked against their chests, competing to see who could give out the most meals.

“I come here more than he does,” said Saeed Salim, 6, as he pointed at his 9-year-old cousin, Khamees Khamees.

“This is my fourth day here and this is his second.”

He pointed and said: “I gave out three more meals than he did.”

Khamees laughed at him and held on to his hand. “If I could talk to one of the car drivers who speed up before iftar, I’d tell him that we are here for your safety, so please take care of us as well.”

The campaign by Sanid, the National Emergency Response Volunteer Programme, this year has 70 volunteers, including students from UAE schools and universities. Pawan Singh / The National 
The campaign by Sanid, the National Emergency Response Volunteer Programme, this year has 70 volunteers, including students from UAE schools and universities. Pawan Singh / The National 

A white Toyota slowed down five minutes before iftar, as Saeed rushed to the passenger seat window to hand the driver his iftar box.

“This meal is always a good save,” said Naleen Mohammed, the driver. “My shift just ended and this always tides me over until I get home.”

Volunteers package iftar meals at Zayed University for five hours a day, before stacking them in school buses for distribution.

Seventy meals are distributed at every junction. Each iftar box contains three dates, a small bottle of water, an antiseptic wipe and a cupcake.

The campaign allowed schools and universities to participate this year. Since 2012, it has spread around the UAE and other countries, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“People of determination are also given the opportunity to volunteer and are accompanied by Sanid members to ensure their safety,” said Al Wahda Mall intersection supervisor Ali Al Ktheery, 20.

“If I could change one thing to improve this campaign, I would involve volunteers from other community service programmes in the UAE in Ramadan Aman to maximise our effort.”

Volunteers distributed 500,000 meals in 2016. This year, the campaign aims to distribute a million meals, with 600,000 in the UAE alone.

“Last year, we had 17,000 volunteers distributed around the UAE,” said Talal Al Hameery, head of Ramadan Aman in Abu Dhabi. “This year, there are about 25,000 volunteers in the UAE alone.”

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Read more:

Ramadan volunteers bring food and good mood to Dubai construction site

Meet the cooks that make 3,000 litres of porridge a day for fasting Muslims in Dubai

Sheikh Mohammed surprises volunteers handing out iftar meals

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This initiative is in partnership with the Ministry of Interior and the General Command of Dubai Police.

“My friend told me about it and I thought to myself: ‘Why not, this is the month of good deeds after all’,” said volunteer Mzna Abdullah, 18. “One of the most memorable meals I’ve ever given was to a fast-food delivery worker on his motorcycle. The fact that he told me ‘Ramadan kareem’ and smiled back at me truly made me happy.”

After volunteering for the past 12 days, Ahmed Al Hosani understood the true value behind every meal.

“It’s not just the meal that leaves an impact on the driver, it’s the smile that you give with it, too,” said Mr Al Hosani, 21. “I once gave Sheikh Diab bin Zayed a meal and he told me that he is proud of Zayed’s children.

“That was by far the most encouraging phrase that someone has ever said to me.”

As maghrib prayers filled the air, volunteers rushed back to the bus where supervisors handed each of them a cupcake and a cup of steaming karak to break their fast.