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Help at hand for the cause

May 15 - 21, 2019

Gulf Weekly Mai Al Khatib-Camille
By Mai Al Khatib-Camille

Gulf Weekly Help at hand for the cause

GULFWEEKLY is urging its readers to open their hearts and lend a helping hand this holy month by volunteering to package food from five-star hotels as part of its Spirit of Ramadan appeal.

Bahrain’s campaigning community newspaper has teamed up with Mumtalakat, the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, to support The Conserving Bounties Society’s annual call to provide food packages for underprivileged families and labourers.

Suha Matar, head of communications and public affairs, said: “We launched the Spirit of Ramadan programme and campaign last year in Mumtalakat to bring together our staff in the spirit of the holy month in support of the wider community.

“We are conscious that the other side of the coin, with respect to our company mandate to generate wealth, is to address hunger. Hence, we partnered with the Conserving Bounties Society who have been established since 2014 to help collect and redistribute food to the needy and underprivileged in Bahrain.”

Since its launch, the non-profit organisation that acts as a food bank has assisted more than 300 families and 3,000 labourers.

While the Society is run by a team of 16 big-hearted individuals, they could use all the help they can get.

 “The Society collects leftover food that would otherwise go to waste from five-star hotels and supermarkets in Bahrain throughout the year,” added Suha. “However, it needs as many volunteers as possible to help aid the venture.

“Our staff and group annual award-winners are coming together this year in support of this initiative by joining the Society representatives after iftar and suhoor to collect and package leftover foods from hotels including The Sheraton Bahrain Hotel, the Movenpick Hotel Bahrain, ART Rotana Amwaj Islands and Downtown Rotana, which are then distributed in the country.”

The Society has also linked up with Lulu Hypermarket and Alosra.

GulfWeekly’s Mai Al Khatib-Camille and her husband, Sam, had joined Suha and her daughters, Nada,18, a University of British Columbia computer science student, and Hana,12, a St Christopher’s School student, at the Sheraton Bahrain Hotel to package food after iftar.

“Both this year and last, my daughters joined me and it’s been a good experience for them as they have to think about food wastage and how best to conserve their own food and consider others,” explained Suha.

Waleed Al Marah, one of the Society’s volunteers and delivery drivers, was also on hand to guide his food packaging team of five. They load the vans, which have been donated for the cause by local companies, to distribute the food parcels on the same night.

Waleed, 33, who has been volunteering from the start, said: “As soon as I receive a call from a hotel, or a venue, to pick up food – be it after a wedding ceremony or another special occasion – I’m there! I must have picked up around 1,200 boxes of food from different hotels.”

All the donations follow internationally-recognised health and safety standards to ensure they are clear to be distributed safely.

Cristalyn Pastrana, cluster director of marketing of the Sheraton Bahrain Hotel, The Westin City Centre Bahrain and Le Meridien City Centre Bahrain, said: “We have been supporting the cause throughout the last couple of years. We give them a call every time we stage a big wedding or event which results in lots of leftover food from the buffet.

“During Ramadan, the volunteers come on a daily basis to collect items from our iftar buffet. I think initiatives like this help us all be more responsible. It reduces food wastage and gives something back to the community.”

Before beginning the packaging process, the team of volunteers donned crisp, clean white coats featuring the Society’s emblem, as well as gloves, medical face masks and hair nets.

The food, which featured buffet trays of untouched Harees, fresh salad, ouzi, chicken and other saucy dishes, was packaged into clear containers and labelled with a safety message to the consumer.

More than 60 boxes were collected and packed into crates on Thursday night that were then rolled out of the hotel on a trolley and loaded into the van.

Individuals or an organisation that has surplus food during the holy month and would like to help should contact the society on 33499499 for more details.

The Spirit of Ramadan campaign aims to also provide meals to children in need around the world through the smartphone application, ShareTheMeal, designed to fight global hunger through the UN World Food Programme (WFP). ShareTheMeal, which features more than 920,000 downloads and 17 million meals shared as of November 2017, enables users to make small donations to specific WFP projects and to track its progress.

The ongoing projects provide meals for children in Syria, Palestine, India and refugee camps across the globe.

GulfWeekly readers have a chance to ensure Spirit of Ramadan makes its own mark throughout the holy month and beyond. Follow #Mumtalakat4BH for more details.

Download the ShareTheMeal app from AppStore or GooglePlay and join #Mumtalakat4BH team.

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