Islamic charity starts at home

Islamic charity starts at home: Feeding London’s homeless

The Children of Adam is a volunteer-based initiative that helps the homeless in central London. It’s a weekly outdoor soup kitchen in which Muslims and non-Muslims come together every Sunday to provide food, drinks, clothes, blankets and other basic provisions to people who are either homeless or in some way struggling to make ends meet. Around 100 men and women make use of our soup kitchen every week.

The group was initially set up following an “Iftar Flashmob” in Ramadan 2011. Iftar Flashmobs are relatively recent phenomena, which have been taking place up and down the country for a few years now. The idea behind them is that Muslims who are breaking their fast during the holy month of Ramadan should do so by sharing their evening meal with others who are less fortunate. In London in 2011 one of the largest Iftar Flashmobs took place at Lincoln’s Inn Field in Holborn (an area of London with a long history of soup kitchens) where fasting Muslims brought food and drinks with them and then shared their meals with the 100 or so homeless people who had also gathered there.

Our volunteers come from all backgrounds and walks of life; we have Muslims and non-Muslims (although the volunteers are predominantly Muslim). Among our volunteers we have teachers, cab drivers, students, activists, housewives, nurses and so on.

One of the most appealing aspects of this sort of charitable initiative is the fact that it is so “hands on.” Instead of donating to a charity where the recipients are anonymous, we actually meet and talk to our recipients. We hand out the food ourselves and see it being eaten so there’s no element of uncertainty as to where the donations are going.

Almost as important as the food itself is the simple act of communication with the homeless. So many of them have said that, while the food and drink is really important to them (many survive from day to day predominantly on what the various soup kitchens provide), the other element they like is just the interaction with the volunteers. Too often they are just ignored sitting on park benches or street corners, and for our group to meet them once a week and ask how things are going since we saw them last seems to be a vital element of what we do to.

That sense of community spirit is what keeps the volunteers coming back week after week. The fact that they give up their Sundays at home with their families and instead chose to stand outside, exposed to the elements, be it snow, rain, sleet, sun etc… is a testament to how dedicated these volunteers are as well as how much they actually enjoy the experience. There’s a sense of purpose and achievement that comes with being a volunteer with a group like ours.

Similarly, the fact that around 100 homeless and disadvantaged people queue up in the rain, snow, sleet, sun etc… shows just how much this sort of service is needed (as well as, hopefully, how much they enjoy our company too).