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Written by: Khadija Pedhiwala

‘It’s more important now than ever before,’ my mom Fatema thought. She was returning from the local food bank where she had just dropped off a cheque on behalf of Dawoodi Bohra families. She and I are a mother daughter team of Dawoodi Bohra women in Fremont, CA working to bridge our community’s emphasis on fighting hunger with needs in Alameda County.

We’re both passionate about serving the less fortunate. It was about 8 years ago that my mom and I started a humble yet impactful partnership between Dawoodi Bohras in Fremont and the TCV Food Bank + Thrift Store to help feed families in need. A one time donation drive years ago inspired me to initially push the idea with my mom.

With encouragement from His Holiness Dr Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin RA, our community’s then spiritual leader, the Dawoodi Bohra community in Fremont had organised the collection and delivery of several thousand pounds of food to the food bank – so much that we had to rent Uhaul cargo vans to get the items there and brought along volunteers to unload. I was one of those volunteers – an ambitious 6th grader and Girl Scout.

‘Syedna Burhanuddin RA encourages us to help those around us not just once, but all the time – I want to set up a way Dawoodi Bohra families can easily do this over and over again for our friends and neighbors in need,’ I recall appealing to my mom after the experience. After some conversations with the foodbank, helpful grocery suppliers, and a little innovation, the two of us figured out a simple, effective means to make it work.

Through a WhatsApp group, each month my mom and I inquire if local Dawoodi Bohra families are able to make a contribution to help support the partnership. Based on the responses, which are typically strong, the two of us buy food and allow participating families to place the goods in bins at Masjid-e-Mohammedi, the Dawoodi Bohra masjid in Niles. The food bank then swings by and picks up the donations on a regular basis.

In the wake of Covid-19 though, the increased stress on grocery supply chains, in addition to challenges in getting food sorted and delivered, made the task of giving far more challenging than usual this month. It was harder to find the items we’d typically donate and the food bank was more restricted in its ability to accept donated food.

But we felt compelled to continue helping our community make a monthly, regional dent in hunger. So we fired up the WhatsApp group and in less than 48 hours, we were fortunate to have raised from local Dawoodi Bohras the cash equivalent of items we’d normally purchase. My mom quickly delivered the funds to the food bank for use on what’s most urgently needed.

During this challenging time, with blessings from the Dawoodi Bohra community’s current spiritual leader, Dr Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS, my mom and I are exploring ways to ensure our existing efforts continue to make an impact. But we’re also hoping to convey a message.

Acts of kindness and giving are more urgent now than ever but it’s really important for us all to think about the long term too. How will we all use this moment to appreciate our collective humanity and deepen our commitment to serving overall?

The incredible amount of goodwill we’re seeing out there in the world is amazing. So many people, communities, organisations, and businesses are stepping up in ways I haven’t seen in my lifetime. In an odd yet stark paradox, amidst heightened social distance, we’re coming together in really heartening, encouraging ways.

Through our collective actions, we’ll put an end to Covid-19 together. But the needs will continue. So let’s be inspired to lend a big hand now but also make a commitment to keep the momentum going and always help our friends and neighbours in need.