From expanding distribution of food packages across Cairo and across the country, to partnering with communities to serve medical and educational needs and pay off debt, the community service clubs at the American University in Cairo (AUC) are as active as ever this Ramadan.
Most clubs started their Ramadan plans a few months ago, when they began collecting donations to buy basic food items to provide for the needy in the holy month.
With hopes of serving over 2,500 families, Help Club is widening its distribution across Egypt this year.
“We are expanding our distribution to different districts across Cairo,” said Rania El-Shenety, on-campus director of Help Club.
El-Shenety said that their plan includes sending food packages to residents of Upper Egypt as well. “We arranged with community members in each area for the packs to be given out to families," she explained.
Money was collected through different channels and donations of friends, families and online campaigns, as well as on-campus from students, staff and faculty.
“Aside from the traditional donations, Help Club has had its own tradition of putting on an annual bazaar on campus for the past 10 years,” El-Shenety stated.
“We buy items and resell them, and the profit goes to supplying our Ramadan packages for the community.”
Launching this year's campaign last month with other groups, like I Volunteer and Hit Egypt, Mashrouaa Kheir, a community service group, put together 2,500 packages for distribution in Cairo's Batn El-Baqara district.
“We help the communities in Ramadan with the packages,” said Nour Khalil, president of Mashrouaa Kheir, adding: “We want to host orphanages for iftar, pay visits to El-Demerdash hospital and senior homes and coordinate with other NGOs who cook daily meals.”
Through on- and off-campus collaborations, Glow, a community service group,is prepared to give out approximately 1,100 food packages this year.
The club has also dispatched 285 packages to Cairo’s Manshiet Nasser.
“Glow’s vision for community development is not only taking place during Ramadan, but we know that people are able to contribute and give more during this month," said Ahmed Abdel-Baky, Glow's president.
"One of our pillars is social responsibility. We believe in giving back to the community, and that's because the community has given us a lot. Some of us happen to be luckier than others, and what we try to do is balance the gaps and see people happy,” he said.
As for the Volunteers in Action (VIA) club, which has been running for 21 years, their target of 3,000 packages is going to members of their Literacy and Junior Development Programmes, as well as to orphans.
“What I like about our Ramadan initiative is that we link it to our programme,” said Mennatallah Ayman, president of VIA. “We know the recipients on a personal level, and this makes VIA more relevant to them and vice versa.”
Volunteers in Action is still connected to those who have been part of the club since its establishment in 1996.
In addition, every day of Ramadan, Volunteers in Action is busy with their "iftar-to-go" hot and fresh meals, which they will provide to orphanages in Cairo.
AUC’s community club scene is witnessing a unique approach this year as well. Resala (Message) is a new feature of AUC's Ramadan initiative.
“Instead of working on providing meals, which other organisations and clubs are already covering, why not fulfil their other needs as well? explained Renada Hossam, president of Resala. “We came up with a new idea, which is covering medical needs, debt and student stipends.”
Resala believes that while food is a basic need, especially in Ramadan, communities sometimes need help in other ways as well.
The group decided to take on 39 cases from Cairo's El-Deweiqa neighbourhood which are in need of medical attention and aid. They are also helping out three individuals with debt relief and aiding 45 Upper Egyptian students who are studying in Al-Azhar University with their expenses.
Community service clubs at AUC all share a commitment to spreading the spirit of giving during Ramadan. As Volunteers in Action put it, these initiatives invite all to "join the Ramadan spirit in spreading happiness."