FIRST PERSON: Lending a helping hand at the Sadaqa Food Bank: A volunteer tells her storyWritten by SFB Volunteer
I recall my first day as a volunteer at the Ottawa Sadaqa Food Bank. I didn't really know what to expect, so I was glad it was training day which also gave me an opportunity to meet my fellow team members. Once our training was complete we were officially on our own. We divided ourselves into two groups. Two of us would staff the office and serve the clients, while the other two would take to the pantry to stock shelves and make food packages. Initially I was in the latter group.
Our first client entered, I quickly headed to the back and waited anxiously for instructions on the food package size. After a few minutes the door opened and my colleague said “2+3.” This meant the family size consisted of two adults and three children. My team mate and I quickly made the package (which included frozen halal (Islamically permissible) meat, pasta, rice, cereal, canned goods, flour and oil) and carried the bags to the office where the young family was waiting.
After many dua'a (supplications to God) and thanks from them we headed back to the pantry. On the way back I took a quick glance at the waiting room. It was packed with at least six families. Standing once again in the pantry, the room seemed so small now and it seemed that the contents of the shelves would barely meet the needs of the families waiting outside.
I felt anxious again but this time it was not coupled with excitement, but with fear. I feared we would not have enough rations to give these families. With more than 600 clients in the database it was clear that we would need more food donations ” a lot more.
As the minutes passed the door kept opening and numbers called out, as we struggled to keep up: “2+2”, “1+4”, “3+2”, “1+6”, “1”. Although there are standard food packages depending on the family size my heart was yelling at me to add a few more cans, a little more rice to each of the bags I was packing. But in my head I knew that this would only result in less food for the others and decided against it.
We left the pantry a few times to help some of the elderly and single mother clients carry their packages to the car or the bus. We also had some people drop off food donations which are given right away to the waiting families.
As the months passed I was able to experience the office duties as well. The office work consisted of checking messages, replying to client inquiries, registering new clients and updating the database and log book whenever a client came in. But most importantly it included talking to them and sometimes just listening.
One incident in particular sticks out in my mind from all the rest. It was a busy Saturday morning when a young 10-year-old girl wearing a simple black hijab (headscarf) was sitting in the waiting room with her 4-year-old brother playing in her lap. I called them into the office and asked if they were alone to which she maturely responded that her father was waiting outside in the car. My heart was breaking; typically a 10-year-old girl on a Saturday morning would be watching cartoons or playing outside with friends but this sweet girl was patiently carrying out the duties of an adult. I could only make dua for her and smile.
After the few hours at the food bank I came home tired and emotionally exhausted thinking of all the clients that have come and gone and sat patiently with a smile on their face waiting for the little that the Sadaqa Food Bank provides.
I pray that Allah swt increases the sustenance of these families and that He rewards all the volunteers for their efforts and blesses our community to continue to donate for this wonderful cause.
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