The Ahmadi Muslim Women of Calgary are spending the holy month of Ramadan collecting donations to support Ukrainian refugees arriving in the city.
The women’s group has been raising money and gathering household items such as crockery sets, kitchen electronics, blankets and more for Ukrainians fleeing the war.
“In this month, as we’re reflecting on all the things that we have and all the luxury that we enjoy every day, there are people who don’t have that luxury, so how can we help them to support them?” said Adila Munir, one of the organizers of this initiative.
Munir remembers what it was like to move to Canada from Pakistan in the late 1990s and wants to help make things a bit easier for Ukrainian refugees.
“My family had the opportunity to think about the items that they wanted to bring and, you know, the type of life they wanted to kind of have,” said Munir.
“Unfortunately, the Ukrainians are having to flee their situation. They don’t have that time to think. They don’t have that time to prep and plan…So we’re supporting them in starting up their new life with the basic necessities.”
Her family left Pakistan to escape persecution for their religious beliefs, she said.
“We fled for the opportunity to live in a free country where religious freedom is something that we highly value,” said Munir.
“I know the experience isn’t the same, obviously what we went through compared to what the Ukrainians are going through, but the ultimate sentiment of leaving your home to go to another and make that your home is still the same.”
An estimated four million people have fled Ukraine over the past month since Russia invaded the country.
So far, Ottawa has approved more than 12,000 applications for temporary visas under the emergency program for Ukrainian refugees.
Since the women’s group began collecting donations in an empty garage, the response from the Ahmadiyya Muslim community has been “phenomenal,” said Munir.
The items collected will be donated and distributed through Calgary’s Centre for Newcomers.
“The reaction and the feedback is very nice and very encouraging,” said Mubaraka Kalim, president of the Calgary chapter of the women’s group.
“Everyone tried to help us.”
An important part of Ramadan is taking time to reflect and helping others in the community, adds Munir.
“Our community does not just end with our people sitting next to us, or the four houses around us, or our family. Our community actually extends beyond that and beyond even to the world,” she said.
“So we really need to think about those people in all parts of the world that are struggling right now and how can we help and support them.”