Sharjah: When Sharjah opened a park exclusively for labourers in September 2021, it was expected to be a recreational facility for the thousands of workers living in the labour accommodations in the Al Sajaa Industrial Area.
However, six months later, the park covering 15,000 sqm turned out to be the venue for thousands of workers to receive free iftars as well. The Al Sajaa Labour Park has become the venue for the largest iftar distribution for workers in Sharjah this Ramadan.
Every evening during this Ramadan, thousands of workers from nearby labour accommodations gather in the park. As they make rows facing each other and sit without rushing, a battalion of volunteers appears with food packets loaded in trucks. After laying the plastic rolls in between the rows of the workers, they hand out the iftar food packets.
Named “Team Iftar,” the volunteers come from various expatriate organisations and have been operating massive iftar distribution drives in the UAE for several years.
Team Iftar volunteers coordinate with Emirates Red Crescent Authority and sponsors, including companies and individuals, to serve free iftar meals to the workers.
One of the founders of the team, Easa Anees, a legal consultant, said the team that started volunteering during Ramadan 16 years ago, used to distribute over 20,000 iftar meals in around 50 spots in the UAE prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A kindhearted Emirati man, who wished to remain anonymous, was the main sponsor of the free iftar distribution those days. However, the massive iftar distribution drive had to be stopped for two years due to the pandemic.
“We are running season two of Team Iftar project now,” Anees said, referring to the team resuming its voluntary distribution after a gap of two years.
This time, he said, the team resumed their activities in Sharjah under the aegis of the Emirates Red Crescent Authority. “We are serving around 3,500 iftars every day. Maybe half of it comes from Emirates Red Crescent. Several organisations including government entities are supporting us to feed iftar to the workers here.”
Representatives of the Red Crescent Authority oversee the iftar distribution by the the volunteers, who are professionals working with various companies. They devote around four hours every day for the massive iftar donation drive.
One of the volunteers, Nishaj Shahul, said: “We reach here before 5pm to begin the preparations for the iftar donation. We leave only after disposing all the waste and having a review meeting of the day. It will be around 8.30 by then.”
After COVID-19, iftar meals are distributed in pre-arranged packets. Each packet contains laban, fresh fruits, water, dates, biryani etc.
“It is a great feeling to see all these thousands of workers having a proper iftar together. They also pray together before leaving.”
The volunteers work in corporate style, with different teams formed to manage various aspects of the iftar distribution. Some of them bring their children also to take part in the distribution drive to teach them the noble values from childhood itself.
The iftar donation is highly appreciated by the workers. Shakeel Ahmed, a worker from Pakistan, said: “It is really good. Thousands of workers are having iftar together. We really like it. I am very happy and thankful to everyone who is arranging this. We are thankful to the authorities in Sharjah also.”
Salem Yousef Al Qaseer, chairman of the Labour Standards Development Authority in Sharjah (LSDA), recently honoured the sponsors and supporters including the volunteers for the successful operations of the iftar distribution in Al Sajaa Park.
In a media statement issued this week, he added: “We value the efforts of our partners, especially the Emirates Red Crescent, the Sharjah Charity Society, Sharjah Police, the General Directorate of Civil Defense in Sharjah, the Sharjah Electricity, Water and Gas Authority, and the Sharjah City Municipality, for their efforts and their sincere cooperation with us in promoting Ramadan virtues.”