KARACHI: For 28 days, 45 volunteers, clad in identical customised black T-shirts, have religiously gathered outside Jinnah hospital to prepare and serve Iftar to more than 400 needy people.
These are a group of young, enthusiastic university students from Aik Naiki, an independent volunteer-based charity group, with the sole aim of making a lasting and positive impact on the lives of underprivileged people.
“We [a group of friends] gave out Iftar boxes every Ramazan but, this year, a bunch of us got together and decided to step it up and formalise ourselves into a bigger, better volunteer group,” Aik Naiki member Ahsan Khan told
“We have new people every day. People spread the word and bring their family and friends. They start to come from 6:30pm and mingle around while we make preparations for the food.”
Every day, the volunteers gather around 6pm outside Jinnah hospital, each handling their assigned tasks, which includes washing dishes from the previous day, unloading the food, water and juices, laying down the dastarkhawan, shifting all liquids from bottles to jugs and streamlining the people and settling them down into organised groups before the Maghrib azaan. The entire preparation process takes at least an hour.
Aik Naiki has kept a simple menu — dates, water, sherbet and a rice dish. Iftar is wrapped up by 8:30pm. “There are never any [leftovers]. We make sure we distribute absolutely everything. It’s a good feeling,” said Khan. “All utensils and equipment are taken back to be stored at the homes of one of the members,” said Raheel Arif, another member of the charity group.
Human’s of Aik Naiki
Khanzada, a labourer living at Dhobi Ghat behind Jinnah hospital, called Aik Naiki a blessing for him. “I came here for Iftar the first few days of Ramazan and offered to help these boys since I was looking for employment,” Khanzada shared
“He [Khanzada] was worried and came to us but he did not want money directly so we hired him at a daily wage to help with Iftar preparations,” said Arif. Every day after work, Sakina, a maid working at Askari apartments, meets her friends and family outside Jinnah hospital. “I told my friend Mariam about this Iftar. It’s her first day today and she loves it,” said the delighted woman.
“It felt good to come here,” said Irfan, who works at Kalapul as a labourer. He explained that his work hours are such that it is impossible to reach home in time for Iftar. Aik Naiki’s Iftar arrangement allows him to not only conveniently break his fast but also enjoy the feeling of togetherness.
Spreading the message
With a marketing strategy depending solely on Facebook and word-of-mouth, the students have set their daily budget for the Iftar drive at Rs20,000 (Rs600,000 for the whole month). However, the first few uploads of Iftar pictures were an instant hit on Facebook and donations and volunteers started pouring in. “People became interested in our Iftar campaign and started donating. We collected around Rs1 million!” Khan shared happily.
“We finished most of it and still had a decent amount left so we decided to add meat to the menu for the last few days, switching to chicken biryani,” he added. Although the initial idea was to serve Iftar inside Jinnah hospital, the volunteers were not allowed. They decided to keep it outside the health facility and cater to the constant flow of attendants.
After Ramazan ends, Aik Naiki aims to register as an NGO. “We tried [to register]before Ramazan, but the fee being charged was extremely high,” said Khan.
In addition to the Iftar distribution drive, Aik Naiki has done several charitable activities, such as distribution of ration packets and water, provision of financial assistance to rickshaw drivers needing to make repairs to their vehicles and paying Rs100,000 to cover the medical bills of a woman admitted at Jinnah hospital.