Every Saturday at about noon needy people start gathering near the Zaporizhzhia II Railway Station Park. They know that at 12:30 Muslimahs from WO “Safya” are coming, and are willing to extend a helping hand in unloading and carrying the heavy bags to the distribution site. Having done their part, they get in line and wait patiently.
Some salad, rice with chicken, chicken stew, bread, tea and cookies make a banquet for both the homeless and the “homely” folks who struggle to make ends meet; whose income is hardly enough to cover the utility bills, the simplest medications and bare minimum of the cheapest staple food (mostly grains).
The volunteers thank everyone who supports the initiative either personally or financially, for every small donation allows them to feed several people more.
The volunteers noticed a certain correlation: the lower the temperature outside, the more people come for a hot meal. The prime cost of one portion is ridiculously low, just UAH 30. What can be served for that money? Considering that the volunteers don’t include the value of their own time, labour and consumables (like fuel) in the prime cost, just the food, there’s a full meal served for each person: a bowl of soup or borscht; a platter of pilaw, buckwheat or cooked whole grains; a piece of meat or chicken; a slice of bread, cookies, a sandwich and a cup of tea. Sometimes they even manage to treat their clients with fruit.
On 28 August, volunteers of Women’s Social Organisation “Maryam” distributed school supplies they’d bought in terms of a charitable benefit “Ready for School!”. Joint efforts of many people resulted in helping needy families from Kyiv, Zhovti Vody, Yahotyn, Sumy, and Zaporizhzhia, significantly easing their financial burden for three years in a row. Most of such aid is directed to grade-schoolers.
This year, unindifferent people once again didn’t let those families down. One good-doer bought 45 schoolbags and spent another UAH 5,000 on office supplies; another brought UAH 2,000; another UAH 4,000 were donated by many to the charity’s special bank account; someone from Rivne city sent a large box of office supplies — not to mention many people who also bought the office supplies they could afford and personally brought them to Kyiv ICC when attending the mosque.
School bags filled with everything necessary have found their owners. We wish glorious academic records for the schoolchildren, and God’s many blessings for the good-doers!
Last weekend, Ukrainian Islamic Cultural Centres through the combined effort of Ukrainian Muslimahs League wrapped up the World Hijab day with final themed events. “Bright”, “interesting” and “momentous” are only a few of titles generously posted by guests of those events on social media, along with their headscarf-clad photos.
Muslimahs in Vinnytsia held their Hijab Day on Saturday, 8 February. They dispelled stereotypes about “Muslimahs imprisoned in their homes and kitchens” by telling, in particular, about their own volunteering projects and holding a fashion show by Vinnytsia Muslim designer Nafisa Roziyeva. They also did headscarf styling for everyone interested, and treated the gathering with tea and sweets. To wrap up the ladies’ party, they invited some men to perform a traditional Arab dance for them.
In Dnipro, Hijab Day was held on 9 February by the local women’s organisation “Blagodiya”. They also started with dispelling stereotypes that headscarf is for sure a means of oppression, and that a Musimah is only capable of unqualified work (in case she does have a job). They spoke about successful Muslimahs from all walks of life, as well as of the religious background that makes modest clothing important for those women. The organizers also did a fashion show, demonstrating modest clothes of different styles, some with references to different ethnic backgrounds, and did a workshop on styling kerchiefs and headscarves. Besides treats, the guests were offered to participate in a quiz and win some presents.
Zaporizhzhia Muslimahs also held their Hijab Day on 9 February. They also spoke about the stereotypes and the importance of the concept of hijab (modest clothing) for female followers of Islam; mentioned successful Muslimahs; recalled some Ukrainian traditional headdress and different ways of its styling. Besides, this year’s kicker was a performance recreating Henna Night, a Crimean Tatar bridal shower. According to one of the organizers, Ms.Niyara Mamutova, that was their natural way to develop the last year’s topic of wedding traditions of different regions of Ukraine (then represented by a ceremony of tying a kerchief over the newlywed woman’s head during the wedding party. This time the guests learned about the wedding arrangements of Crimean Tatars: how the presents are delivered, how the bride is dressed while everyone is singing and telling stories, how the bride’s arms are decorated with henna patterns and how she and her future mother-in-law greet each other in order to show their mutual respect. And, of course, treats were available not only for the performers of the Henna Night, but for the guests as well: tea, coffee and sweets were offered to everyone.
On September 15, the volunteers from the Maryam Women’s Organisation held an educational event “I Love Mary, Mother of Jesus, Because I’m Muslimah.” The project was also supported by Tariq Sarhan, a representative of Mercy for Mankind international initiative. It should be noted that volunteers — Margarita, Daria and Olga — are also members of the Mercy for Mankind group, and such educational campaigns are coordinated through the initiative’s group on Viber.
On Sunday, a small number of the group members could come, but a lot of people were interested in getting the information about it, as a “Animal Rights March” was going in Mariinsky Park at the same time, and there were much more people than usual. People whose hearts are open to the world became a great audience: they were coming to the stand, asking questions, warming up with tea and coffee, participating in a quiz, having awarded with sweet prizes at the end – fragrant honey puffs.
The organizers were pleasantly surprised that many of those who came up to them already had a basic knowledge of Islam and Muslims, so the quiz was easy for them. Even the kids showed good awareness! Others, on the contrary, were coming up to due to lack of knowledge: they wondered what connection was between Mary and Muslimahs. And they were told that Muslims respect Mary very much, and know not only about her life, but also about the lives of her parents and relatives; mentioned in Qur’an, which includes the whole Surah named after Mary, and the miracles associated with this righteous person are mentioned in great detail.
It was interesting to communicate with a group of devote Christians: they found much in common with Muslims concerning their knowledge and attitude toward that person. They noticed differences as well, but discussed them with respect for each other’s views. The two groups shared even their contacts with each other, and Christians promised to visit Kyiv Islamic Cultural Centre, noticing that they would not change their religious views, though. They were assured that no one would require it from them: They were just asked to come with peace and hearts open to dialogue and building the bridges.