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Thousands of people ending their day's fast with meals sponsored by Malawian brothers Imran and Mohammed Karim at a workers' accommodation complex in Jebel Ali, Dubai Image Credit: Ahmad Alotbi/Gulf News

Dubai: As many as 21,000 people at 20 locations in the UAE are having free iftar meals every day during this Ramadan, thanks to a charity drive run by two expat brothers.

Malawian brothers Imran and Mohammed Karim initially started the ‘Happy Happy UAE’ initiative in 2015 to serve construction workers in Dubai on a daily basis. Over the last eight years, the businessmen expanded the initiative to reach out to more and more people. They dedicate time every day to feed thousands of workers, with the support of volunteers who help them distribute the meals.

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“Our aim this year is to feed 1.2 million meals [to others],” Imran, the elder brother and founder of the initiative, told Gulf News when we visited two locations where they provide mass iftars in Dubai Investments Park and Jebel Ali.

“We serve 365 days, throughout the year. Daily, we serve approximately 2,000 construction workers, gardeners, janitors and other labourers. We give back one hour a day between 5pm and 6pm daily to serve the guests,” he explained.

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During Ramadan, the duo tie up with Model Service Society (MSS) Image Credit: Ahmad Alotbi/Gulf News

Food for these is distributed in the premises of their villa and also near Kite Beach.

During Ramadan, they spend about two to three hours on the ground to supervise the iftar distribution as the charity drive takes place in multiple locations.

“This Ramadan, we are targeting to feed more than 600,000 people. Hence, we are giving away at least 21,000 iftar meals a day. Sometimes, it might go up by a few thousands more,” said Imran.

“Our message is very clear. Our intention is to serve the people who have built our communities. This is our way of saying ‘thank you’ and show appreciation for their contribution in building our communities. It is our time to give back to them. Charity is not only about giving money, it could just be the smallest gesture which could be a smile.”

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Echoing his brother, Mohammed Karim, the chief happiness officer of the initiative, said: “It’s about treating everyone with respect, no matter their race, religion, culture and background. Everyone is equal in our eyes. The definition of charity is not limited to just monetary donations, it could be the smallest act of kindness that makes someone’s day.”

He said they wish to inspire others to start serving people around the UAE. “We are happy that our Chinese guests who recently volunteered at one of our camps were inspired and they started distributing 10,000 free iftar meals at Dragon Mart.”

The brothers said they are grateful to the UAE leaders who are inspirational in charity service.

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The workers line up before sunset to collect their iftar meals Image Credit: Ahmad Alotbi/Gulf News

Beyond food distribution

The brothers have had celebrities visiting and taking part in the mass iftar distributions. When Gulf News visited, it was bus driver-turned-celebrity singer Naseeb Abbas from the UK, who joined them. Known as Prince Naseeb Abbas on social media, he enthralled thousands of blue-collar workers by singing Nasheeds and Naats (Islamic poetry). Singing along with him, the workers elevated the occasion beyond a mass iftar service to a spiritual community event.

“I very rarely see anyone doing this sort of social work with so much dignity and respect. It’s very inspiring,” said Abbas.

Rizwan Fancy, a Pakistani entrepreneur from Dubai who has been involved in the brothers’ community service, said: “Normally, big donors give money and just get things done. But these two are on the ground, completely involved in making sure everything is done properly, everyone is treated with respect. They treat workers like brothers and their compassion is really amazing.”

Volunteers’ contribution

However, the Karim brothers said their initiative could not have been successful without the physical support extended by the battalion of volunteers. During Ramadan, they tie up with the volunteers of the Model Service Society (MSS), a community volunteering group licensed by the Community Development Authority (CDA).

Preparations start at 7am daily at multiple kitchens around Dubai. The ingredients used include 12,500kg of mutton, 21,000 Laban, 21,000 bottles of water, 3,600kg of dates and 700kg of fruits.

MSS volunteers from different walks of life spend hours in packing and distributing the iftar meals to the workers. Some of them also bring their children to take part in the voluntary activities.

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A man guides workers as they receive the meal boxes Image Credit: Ahmad Alotbi/Gulf News

Eight-year-old Faiza, who came with her elder siblings Fiza and Faiz, was the youngest volunteer who came to serve the workers. “She is so compassionate and adamant to come here and serve the workers every single day of Ramadan. I am proud that our children are learning these good values through our volunteering initiatives,” said her father Ragid Kader, an IT architect with an Abu Dhabi-based university, who volunteers for MSS.

Grateful workers

The work of the Karim brothers and the volunteers are highly appreciated by the workers, the beneficiaries of the mass iftars.

“It’s my first Ramadan here as I came over to Dubai only a few months ago. I miss my family but this iftar service during Ramadan has given me a big family and today I was happier because I could sing Naats also during iftar. I felt very nostalgic as I used to be a Naatkar [Naat singer] back home,” said Mohammed Rahman, a 21-year-old welder from Pakistan.

Mohammed Akbar, a 60-year-old carpenter from India, said: “We don’t have to cook during Ramadan. We have been getting sumptuous iftar from these brothers for years. They are very good people.”