May 24, 2018, Cairo – From expanding distribution of food packs across Cairo and different parts of the country and partnering with the community to catering to medical and educational needs and paying off debt, the community service clubs at The American University in Cairo (AUC) are as active as ever this Ramadan. Most clubs started their plans for Ramadan a couple of months ago, when they were able to collect donations to buy the basic food items most people will use throughout the 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. She said that their plan included sending packs to residents of Upper Egypt, “We arranged with community members in each area for the packs to be given out to families.”
The money was collected through different channels and donations of friends, families and online campaigns, as well as on campus for students, staff and faculty to donate. “Aside from the traditional donations, Help has 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 combining our Ramadan packs for the community.”
Launching their Ramadan campaign a month ago with other entities, like I Volunteer and Hit Egypt, Masrhou3 Kheir was able to put together 2,500 packs for distribution at Batn El Baqara district of Cairo.
“We help the communities in the beginning of Ramadan through the packs, and also during the month,” said Nour Khalil, president of Mashroo3 Kheir. “We want to host orphanages for iftar, pay visits to El Demerdash hospital, senior homes and coordinate with other NGOs who cook daily meals.”
Through on and off-campus collaborations, Glow is prepared to give out approximately 1,100 food packages this year. Also in the community service club's main target area, 285 packs were directed to Manshiet Nasser.
"Glow’s vision for community development is not only taking place in Ramadan, but we know that people are able to contribute and give more during this month," said Ahmed Abdelbaky, 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."
As for the 21-year-old Volunteers in Action (VIA) club, their target of 3,000 packs is going to members of their programs – which are the Literacy Program and Junior Development Program – as well as orphans. “What I like about our Ramadan initiative is that we link it to our program,” said Menna-Tullah Ayman, president of VIA. “We know the recipients on a personal level, and this makes VIA more relevant to them and vice versa.”
VIA is still connected to those who were part of club since its establishment in 1996. Though no longer members, former VIAns are always ready to offer help in whichever way they can. “Every Ramadan, we have alumni showing up to help,” Ayman said. “For example, this year, when it came to packing, there were thousands of products that could take days, so we can’t leave them around campus. This year, an alum allowed us to use his garage for that process.”
In addition, every day of Ramadan, VIA is busy with their Iftar-to-Go hot and fresh meals, which they will provide to orphanages in Cairo.
A unique approach AUC’s community club scene is witnessing is Resala AUC’s Ramadan initiative. “Instead of working on providing meals, which other organizations and clubs are already covering, why not fulfill their other needs as well?” said 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. They decided to take on 39 medical cases from El Deweiqa neighborhood in Cairo that are in need of medical attention and aid. They are also helping out three individuals with debt relief, and 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 across Cairene communities and Egypt as a whole. As VIA put it, these initiatives invite all to "join the Ramadan spirit in spreading happiness."