Many of the activities in the beginning of the HELP Greece Summer program dealt with Ramadan because this year it fell on May 16th – June 14th. Ramadan is the holiest month in the Islamic culture. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset meaning they don’t drink or eat anything. In addition to fasting Muslims have a spiritual connection during this time by completing their prayers daily, giving back, reading Qur’an, changing their negative behavior, etc. They break their fast to the call of prayer just after sunset known as Maghrib which is the fourth of five obligatory daily prayers.
As you can imagine, Ramadan is a little different living in a refugee camp. The traditional customs families have been able to do in the past must be put on hold while living in a camp. However, the HELP team worked with One Happy Family where we could add a sense of normality for the ones living in Moria Camp during the month of Ramadan. Preparing a meal, providing transportation and getting the word out for an event is hard enough, but doing that in a refugee camp is even harder. Thankfully with strong teamwork on both ends and communication, a plan was set where we would hold Ramadan dinners twice a week during the month.
Mahmood, chef at OHF, put the menu together for the dinners. He would begin cooking at noon with the help of two of our volunteers and two of his workers. HELP International would make the tickets and distributed them out to the sections in the camp. Distribution of 550 tickets went to families, single men and women from any country, Muslim or non-Muslim. When it was time to load the buses to transport people from Moria to One Happy Family, OHF had security that spoke French, Arabic and Farsi to help with crowd control and language barriers. This kept everyone calm as there was someone to explain what they were going to expect for the evening in their native language. HELP had two volunteers and a coordinator to also help crowd control which gave some families a familiar face they recognized from Moria. While busses were arriving, volunteers from partner NGO such as, Help Refugee and Refugee for Refugee, in addition to the volunteers of HELP International and staff of OHF, were preparing seating on the ground and in the cafeteria for all our guests.
After experiencing Ramadan here, it was completely different and out of my usual traditions but by far one of the best Ramadan’s. Fasting days were long but went by peacefully knowing I had our two Arabic translator interns, and occasionally HELP volunteers fasting with me. Dinners at OHF felt like home. A volunteer of OHF, would go to the roof top and complete a call to prayer and his words were heard by everyone. It was music to my ears. We broke our fast with dates and water which is the culture norm. One of everyone’s favorite parts was being able to have dinner with Muslims and non-Muslims. Even though we had the dinners for Ramadan, it was a time to enjoy a meal together as one happy family! A time to get out of Moria and away from the chaos and enjoy the beautiful Island sunset. The dinners wouldn’t have been possible without the relaxing environment that One Happy Family provides each and every day for the refugees living in the camps. Everything from bus loading, cooking dinner, setting up and to cleaning up the space, it all wouldn’t have gone as smoothly as it did without teamwork from all partners.
- Yasmine, Greece Country Coordinator
*All HELP blogs written by volunteers reflect the beliefs and thoughts of that volunteer and do not necessarily reflect the organization's outlook. For any questions about HELP International's official stance on any topic, please email us directly