Volunteers prepare food in a charity kitchen set up in Syria's old Damascus city on May 14, 2019.(Xinhua/Ammar Safarjalani)
by Hummam Sheikh Ali
DAMASCUS, May 15 (Xinhua) -- For the seventh straight year, the Khasa al-Jou initiative is bringing volunteers together to prepare food for the poor in Syria during the holy month of Ramadan.
Taking a small space at the giant backdoor of the time-honored Umayyad Mosque in the old Damascus city, tens of volunteers are working around the clock to prepare meals for the poor in Ramadan.
This year, the initiative, known as "Defeat Hunger," is growing bigger with more volunteers joining in to distribute food on the streets, not only those who would come seeking a warm Iftar meal during the fasting month.
The initiative is an activity of a local humanitarian group called "Saed" or "Help."
Issam Habbal, head of the Saed group who is also supervising the volunteer work in the Khasa al-Jou initiative, told Xinhua that the group now has branches in several Syrian cities with the same purpose of helping people in need.
He said the support to the initiative is solely from the local communities.
"Today all our support comes from local communities and the support hasn't dwindled because the people are so eager to help out and the people who are receiving this help are in need," he said.
Habbal said that during the tough years of war in Syria, the affected people used to get food parcels from humanitarian organizations, noting that many of such activities have stopped.
"Previously they used to get food parcels which have stopped, so thankfully today we are fine and may the next year be better and our initiative become a Ramadan ritual to help those in need," he noted.
At the site, the volunteers' movement was like a bee cell and everyone was so busy preparing and cooking the food in big bowels to pack it later in small meal boxes.
Rabia Qutaiman, a volunteer, said the volunteer work comes from within the person who wants to help other people.
"The volunteer work is a humanitarian work and is something that comes from within and has no self-interest but has a greater humanitarian goal which is helping people in need," she said.
She said that the Saed group aims to help the people in need by providing them with meals during Ramadan.
"Here in Saed group, we are trying our best to help the people and the food quantity is sufficient to all people and we are trying to deliver food to the most affected people," the young volunteer said.
Some poor people showed up near this charity kitchen with bowls in their hands waiting for the food to be ready so that they can have their share of meals before the Iftar meal, or the breakfast, of Ramadan.
Abu Muhammad, 65, told Xinhua while receiving his share that such charity work has helped during the war those who were displaced from their homes and lost everything.
"Such gestures show that we are still human no matter how vicious the war is," he said.
Saed group also cooperates with local charities in several areas in the countryside of Damascus.
Hasan Akel, head of a charity in Damascus' Sayhnaya countryside, showed up to receive 400 meals to distribute to the poor and displaced people in his area.
"Today we are going to receive 400 meals for the poor families in Sayhnaya and the displaced people who are seeking refuge in that area," Akel told Xinhua.
The group prepares more than 7,000 meals per day in Ramadan to help the people in need and to give Ramadan its lost glamour that has been overshadowed by the long years of war in Syria.