Hyatt Plaza held an orientation on fasting on Friday as a prelude to its annual “Fast-a-thon,” a charity event geared at helping young children in Somalia enter university and receive higher learning.
Emcee Abdulrahman al-Qatami said the Fast-a-thon, designed for non-Muslims to encourage them to fast, will be held today and culminate with an “Iftar Party” for all of the participants.
For every registered participant, al-Qatami said Hyatt Plaza and Eid Charity will donate QR200 to Islamic Online University (IOU) and Horn of Africa, a local government-approved charity in Somalia. The funds will be used for the Intensive English Course (IEC) for children.
"More than 400 expatriates from 23 countries participated in last year’s Fast-a-thon, which was able to raise more than QR80,000 in donations," he recalled.
Around 80% of the participants this year are repeat registrants, including some who have been participating in the Fast-a-thon for the past five years. But due to ongoing renovations inside the mall and the capacity limit of the venue, Hyatt Plaza has limited the number of participants to around 320 for this year’s Fast-a-thon.
In a video presentation, the IOU reported that among the most important issues hampering Somalia’s development is “the inability” of its senior secondary and tertiary educational institutions to effectively utilise English as the main medium of instruction.
Most universities in Somalia only use English as a medium of instruction, making it difficult for high school graduates to proceed to university since their subjects were taught in Arabic or in the native language.
The IOU said its mission “is to improve the educational system for the next generation” by introducing the IEC, in collaboration with a number of schools and universities in different parts of Somalia, whose capital and largest city, Hargeisa, is home to 1.2mn people (as of 2015).
The IOU said the IEC programme in Somalia registered 1,500 students within the first two months since it was implemented in 2014.
Dominic Foley, the Da'ee at the Bin Zaid Centre (Fanar), delivered the orientation and engaged participants to share their views about Fast-a-thon.
“I’ve been in the country since June last year, so I came just after Ramadan. And because of my work colleagues fast, I want to experience what they go through so I’ve been fasting since the start of Ramadan,” one of the participants said.
His young daughter added: “Because we need to respect…because some people in the world don’t have food and we have so much.”
Asked to respond to the girl’s opinion, Foley told Gulf Times: “Those people in Somalia hardly have any food. If they have it, they don’t know when they’re going to eat it. It’s certainly not a smorgasbord of choice, but a very limited choice. She realised that we actually gain an empathy with these people who don’t eat and drink at all like we do.
“It was so profound for somebody very little. This is actually one of the wisdoms we take from fasting. This is probably the single biggest wisdom that many people expound about fasting and this young girl picked it up. She is very bright.”
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