Dates4Syria campaign to provide bread for Syrians
Friday, May 20th, 2016
We are now over five years into the Syrian conflict; no end is in sight, instead, a horrible quagmire of international political wrangling continues unabated. With hundreds of thousands of lives lost, millions displaced internally, and millions of refugees in surrounding countries – many are now also heading for the West – it often seems like changing the status-quo is impossible.
SKT Welfare – a UK registered charity – was quick to respond following the onset of the crisis that erupted in early 2011. Under the guidance of its patron, the internationally renowned Syrian scholar Sheikh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi, the charity swiftly established itself on many fronts inside Syria, as well as in the neighbouring countries of Jordan and Turkey. Along with operating Al-Huda Hospital near Aleppo, SKT Welfare also opened several water wells and hand-pumps which provide clean water to refugee camps in the north, as well as beleaguered populations in the suburbs of Damascus. Furthermore, the charity runs a school in Jordan catering for adult and child education for Syrian refugees living there. More recently, SKT Welfare opened the Springs of Hope Family Centre in Turkey, housing Syrian widows and orphans.
Early on in the war, a serious problem faced by the Syrians was that bakeries and bread factories were constantly being bombed, whether in cross-fire or purposefully. Bread, which forms the staple diet in the region, was highly sought after and the rising price of flour compounded matters. To help address this, the charity renovated an abandoned bakery in the North of Syria, and set about providing free loaves of bread to thousands in the vicinity as well as to seven local refugee camps.
In an attempt to fund the ongoing running costs of the bakery, our 2015 UK fundraising efforts saw a group of passionate volunteers in Bradford launch the phenomenally successful Dates4Syria campaign.
Medjoul dates from the Jordan Valley were imported into the UK, and thousands of boxes were sold across the country, selling-out within weeks in the run-up to Ramadan. It was a no-brainer: dates – being on the plate of every Muslim at sunset during the month of fasting – were sure to be in popular demand. That they were Medjoul dates, larger and juicier than the regular variety, made them even more desirable.
The 2016 Dates4Syria campaign is even more ambitious, and sees the charity now selling the finest, ethically-sourced, Medjoul dates, in most major towns and cities across the UK; including several shops and Asian supermarkets. The dates come in a range of four, different coloured, beautifully packaged, collectible boxes; also available to order online, with free delivery in many cities.
This year, the dates were hand-picked by Syrian refugees living in Jordan, and so, while the project aims to provide bread to refugees, it was able to provide an income to the pickers in the process.
The Jordan Valley is a large area, comprising not only Israeli or Palestinian occupied land, but also parts of Jordan itself – which is where SKT’s dates are from – so customers can have peace of mind in relation to who they are supporting when purchasing these dates.
Last year, the Dates4Syria project paid for one hundred thousand loaves, easily providing bread to over fifty thousand needy persons. With the cost of flour coming down, each box will now pay for fifty loaves of bread; consequently this year SKT Welfare aims to feed nearly two million needy persons through the sale of the dates.
It is true: changing the status-quo in this conflict may be impossible. But changing the lives of thousands is certainly possible. And for Muslims, Ramadan is the most generous time of year, as people fulfil their obligation of Zakat and pay voluntary charity. It’s a time when people less fortunate than the majority of us are remembered. So please, buy a Dates4Syria box today. Not only would it make a beautiful gift for your family and friends, but you would also be automatically gifting needy Syrians. It is the perfect gift this Ramadan.
Dr. Ismail Ray
Trustee, SKT Welfare
Dr. Ismail Ray is a practicing GP in Blackburn, and a trustee of the charity SKT Welfare. Married with 3 children, he is an active member of his local community with a longstanding concern for social cohesion. He has studied basic Islamic sciences under various different scholars and is a student of Sheikh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi.