ABU DHABI: As a youngster she saw her mother cook homely iftar meals for people visiting a neighbourhood mosque to end their fast. As she grew up, Emirati Afra Al Dhaheri vowed to keep the tradition of giving alive in any way she could.
For the past five years the 30-year-old entrepreneur has been doing just that - distributing iftar packages to blue collar workers throughout Ramadan.
The spirit of giving
She started in 2013 with a labour camp in the ICAD area of Musaffah that housed about 1,700 workers.
Since then the initiative has got bigger and better with each passing year.
In 2016, Al Dhaheri provided iftar meals to over 5,000 workers. This year, the number has already crossed 6,000.
“Ramadan is the month of generosity and charity, as fasting allows us to realise how much we have and how little others have,” said Al Dhaheri who is the founder and owner of Cloud9 Pet Hotel and Care in Abu Dhabi and also a broadcaster on an application called YOUNOW where she has nearly 200,000 followers.
“My mother has been preparing iftar meals for worshippers at the local mosque for as long as I can remember. It left an indelible impression on my mind and I thought of doing something along similar lines during Ramadan. So far our focus has largely been on labour camps in Musaffah. We hope to extend the initiative to camps in other areas in the coming years. I am indebted to my family, friends and some generous clients who have been supporting my all these years. I couldn’t have pulled this off without their help,” she said.
Just before dusk, Al Dhaheri drives down to labour camps in Musaffah with her staff and volunteers and personally hands over the iftar boxes to the workers. Each pack contains chicken biryani, dates, fruit, cookies, water bottle and laban.
“It is an enriching experience and seeing the smiling faces of workers is both very rewarding and fulfilling.” she said.
Al Dhaheri also has a tough stance against food wastage. “We tend to prepare too many dishes for iftar and suhour. Sadly, most of them remain uneaten and go waste. We should do everything we can to minimise food wastage,” she said.
Al Dhaheri’s staff Barend Moolman, who helps in the distribution of iftar meals said her enthusiasm is infectious. “She is always full of energy and it rubs on us as well,” he said.
Abdullah Al Ali, a volunteer, echoed the same sentiments.
“Distributing iftar meals among workers every day of Ramadan is no mean task. But her passion and commitment never wavers and that is what makers her initiative truly remarkable” he said.