Dubai: Nine-year-old Amal Nishal is fasting daily this Ramadan. The grade-four boy from Kerala in India is the youngest volunteer at the Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre’s (KMCC) iftar tent in Dubai that serves more than 2,500 people daily.
Amal first visited the KMCC iftar tent near Dubai Hospital in Al Baraha on the first day of Ramadan this year.
Though he had gone to end the fast with his father Naushad Koroth, the volunteering service that his father and friends do at the tent fascinated the young boy. “He just loved the atmosphere here, the way we serve the food and the way so many people from various countries and of different backgrounds have iftar together,” Naushad told Gulf News.
“Since then, he has also been volunteering daily, helping with packing and serving.”
There are 210 volunteers, divided into seven groups, who ensure smooth and clean distribution of iftar meals.
They are given rainbow themed colour-coded T-shirts corresponding to each day of the week when their group needs to lead the volunteering effort in rotation. “Most of the volunteers are drivers, A/C maintenance workers, PROs, office assistants and people who do other routine jobs. But, we also have businessmen and professional executives who have been volunteering with us,” said Ebrahim Elettil, president of KMCC, Dubai.
Volunteer Rafeek Koroth comes all the way from Ras Al Khaimah, where he runs an electronic shop. “The satisfaction I get from this service is something special,” he said.
Musthafa Vengara, general secretary, said even people with disabilities are part of the team. “He is hearing-impaired,” he said, pointing to Maharoof Choyikandi House, a tailor.
“But, he has been volunteering as a gatekeeper who helps in crowd management, directing the people to the tent and the outside seating area for seven years.”
The preparation for the volunteering team, who also fast, begins a month before Ramadan, said Ebrahim Iritty, chairman of the volunteers’ wing.
“The registration of new members and renewal of old members is done and they are assigned duties in rotation. They are also trained by hygiene officers from some hotels. Every day we have about 150 volunteers present.”
The volunteers arrive several hours before the barefoot men, mainly comprising blue-collar workers and also some professional bachelors, line up to have their iftar.
By 2.30pm, they start cutting fruits into pieces, mixing them and making small packages along with dates. Dozens of large vessels containing biryani are delivered by two catering companies at around 4.30pm. The volunteers then start laying the carpets and the plastic sheets. By 5.30pm, they start spreading the iftar meal. Water, juice and laban are also served.
Lieutenant Colonel Khalifa Ali Rashid, assistant director, Al Muraqqabat police station. who visited the tent on Tuesday said the KMCC volunteers were doing an amazing job by serving such a large number of people from all walks of life.
■ Each meal costs: Dh15
■ Expense for a day: Dh37,500
■ Expense for a month: Dh1.12 million
■ KMCC contribution for biryani: Dh900,000
■ Expense born by sponsors of the rest of the items: Dh220,000
The total seating capacity in the premises of the KMCC office is 2,100, the president said.
When the air-conditioned tent with a seating capacity of 600 is filled up with the early birds, the volunteers direct the rest of the people to seating in the courtyard.
“When we started the community iftar in 2012, we were serving only 1,500 people. Over the years, the number of people coming to have iftar increased. Now, after the compound is full, there is long queue of a few hundred people. On average we serve 2,550 iftar meals. Our volunteers are the pillars of this success.”
After the hustle and bustle of serving iftar, volunteers, who are also worshippers observing the fast, end it with just dates and water and have the full meal only once they finish cleaning up the area by 8pm.