Wandsworth project gives Eid gifts to Somali orphans

Hundreds of orphans in Somalia will receive gifts in time for Eid in August thanks to a Wandsworth community project.

Mother of four Baar Hersi partnered with non-profit organisation Elays Network to work with young people on the annual Eid Gift Initiative.

Mrs Hersi started the Eid Gift Initiative last year, delivering gifts to around 300 children in Somalia and Somaliland.

She said: “It basically stemmed from the importance of giving that emphasise with our own children through the exchange of gifts and having a fresh ensemble to wear on the day and so on.

“We’ve made it possible for children to have that who might not have otherwise had that possibility. I wanted to do it again this year because it feels so good to see all those kids smiling and enjoying it. It’s a great way to show my own kids about giving to others, because they’re blessed enough to have two parents who can provide all of those things for them.”

Mrs Hersi’s children, who are 15, 14, 9 and 3, have helped her with the process since she launched the initiative.

“My three-year-old has been jealous this year because all the gifts are in my house and now she’s old enough to understand what’s going on,” she said.

With Mrs Hersi working hard to gain more connections in Somalia and Somaliland, it looks as though the initiative is becoming a long-term project.

“There’s no doubt I’ll be doing this again next year,” she said.

“I found new orphanages to work with this year, and because they’re smaller they need more help.”

As a teacher, she said she also felt strongly about helping the children access a good education.

“Next year I’ll look into asking people to donate old school books and school bags that have been used but are still in good condition,” Mrs Hersi said.

On Saturday evening, Elays held a gift-wrapping evening in Ealing and invited young people from the community to take part by bringing a gift as their entrance fee.

Intisar Yusuf, project manager at Elays, said an estimated £100 million in charitable donations were made by UK Muslims mat Ramadan and Eid.

“People are very giving,” she said.

“That’s basically what Ramadan is about. When Baar approached us about this we felt it was something we needed to be involved with.”

On the gift-wrapping evening, Elays was pleased with the turnout from young people, who donated clothes and toys for the Somali orphanages.

Ms Yusuf said: “It’s important to get young people involved. They created a video and a leaflet and took pictures on the night. All of them really wanted to be a part of it and got really excited, and a lot of them had never wrapped gifts and needed help.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for young people because being a great citizen should be about charity and giving as much as you can to people who are worse off than you.”

The gifts will be shipped in mid-July so the orphanages receive them in time for Eid Ul Adha, which falls in August.

Elays also held a community Iftar for Ramadan in June, with a turnout of around 150 Wandsworth and Lambeth residents from all backgrounds.

“We wanted to continue doing the yearly community Iftar and make sure the local community came so we could tell them about Ramadan,” said Ms Yusuf.

“Muslims work in all fields across the country. When people see their colleague has stopped eating and drinking in the daylight hours, they become curious and naturally want to know about it. We are trying to educate because through education we integrate into society and bridges are built.”

She added that the Iftar offered non-Muslims in the community the opportunity to ask any burning questions that only someone taking part in Ramadan could answer.

“Food and art can always bridge people,” said Ms Yusuf.

“Sending gifts to orphans and donating to charity – and lately football – can connect anyone wherever they are in the world. We focus on the things that can bridge us together.”

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