A crowd exceeding 70 Egyptian youth filled up the front yard of a villa in the Cairo district of Mohandessin. A small group gathers at each corner of the yard with a pile of cartons of sugar, pasta, rice, black eyed peas and tea next to each group. Lines of young Egyptians come and go, filling up plastic bags from the food stations and wrapping them at the end of the lines. That was the scene at a Ramadan packing event, organised by three Rotary clubs: Rotaract Cairo Royal, Rotaract Gezira Sporting and Rotaract Nile Palace.
This was the first Rotary event during Ramadan 2015, and one of the last philanthropic ones in the clubs’ fiscal year. One packed bag costs EGP 50 and includes 3 kg of rice, 1 kg of pasta, 2 kg of sugar, 1 kg of black eyed peas, 1 kg of ghee, 1 kg of oil, a jar of tomato sauce and a packet of tea.
“The bags we are packing will head to Upper Egypt, mainly Minya,” Saja Fathy, vice president of Rotaract Cairo Royal said. “Our target is to pack 1,500 bags.”
The packing event began at 8pm, with 50 people having shown up 20 minutes later. A couple of hours into the packing, and around 100 volunteers had gathered to join the event – 30 more volunteers than last year’s event.
A past rotaractor donates the place each year for the event to be held.
“This is the second year for me as a volunteer in Rotaract’s packing event,” Yara, one of the volunteers, said. “I come because Rotaract is well-known for the good things they do, and I see lots of my good friends in it, and they concentrate in giving those bags to those actually in need.”
“It’s hectic, for sure, but it is worth it,” another volunteer said.
Prior to the beginning of Ramadan, Rotaract receives requests for charity bags from their contacts in the governorates, and they base their distribution plan on that information. Members of the club travel with some of the packages to make sure they are safely delivered.
The club is organising a second packing wave, with the same target to be distributed in different governorates.
A similar scene was repeated in Nebny Foundation, located on the borders of the slum area of Manshiyat Nasser. Nebny (which means “to build up”) was once threatened with eviction and closure by the Cairo governorate, but has come back in the holy month of Ramadan in full force. An hour before breaking fast, members of the Nebny foundation climb the hill of Manshiyat Nasser to distribute breakfast to the elders.
Nebny members and volunteers gather to pack bags every day in Ramadan. They also hold a breakfast for those in need, in which they serve breakfast for older citizens.
“Since the beginning of Ramadan, we distributed bags [filled with food commodities] on a daily basis,” the Nebny Foundation’s spokesman Mohamed Refaat told Daily News Egypt.
Donations and sponsoring partners provide the necessary money to make those bags, Refaat said, adding that “around EGP 15 is deducted from the price of the bag to go to educational projects”.
The foundation has conducted research and created a database for those in need, Refaat explained, noting that around 200 bags are distributed. The Foundation is seeking to distribute 10,000 bags and send some to Upper Egypt.
The Foundation also sets up a charity breakfast table every day, providing around 200 meals per day, and distributes 100 additional meals when they climb the hill.
Thirty people can volunteer at the start of the packing process, and around 10 of those stay until breakfast is served on the table. The number of volunteers varies though, Refaat highlighted.
The temporary spirit of giving is spread out during Ramadan, but fades away after the holy month passes by. It is up to organisations such as Nebny and Rotaract to keep it going throughout the year, and to encourage volunteers to show up and share such a giving spirit.