Since the turn of the millennium, people have been uniting their efforts for a week under an annual campaign to synergistically affect change across the world based on shared Islamic, humanitarian values. Over time, the ethos of this movement, which was inaugurated at St. George’s University, was refined such that over 270 institutions are now unified under the same purpose; an ultimate vision which states that we are stronger together rather than apart. That our situation will not change unless we change ourselves. That even if the problems of the world could not be solved by money, they can be solved through unity.
From the modest acorn grows the mighty Oak tree. Great futures often spring from humble beginnings, and Charity Week was no exception. Back in St. George’s, the pioneers of this campaign realised that having the power to improve the lives of others was a privilege that came with a sense of obligation. Utilising the abidingly versatile shoebox as a means to collect donations, and a handwritten poster, a few medical students enthusiastically embarked on a mission which precipitated a global philanthropic revolution. Experiencing exponential growth year-on-year, Charity Week is now raising seven-figure sums to fund aid projects, with this year’s including heart surgery for refugee children in Syria, medical services for children in Palestine, and urgent aid for orphans in Pakistan, Nigeria, Iraq, Philippines, Somalia, Yemen, Sri Lanka and Bosnia.
The real story, however, is not the amount of money raised or the number of countries involved, but the cultivation of unity between people. Bringing out the best in everyone each year, Charity Week embodies the values of the Prophet PBUH, who taught us that “kindness is a mark of faith” (narrated by Sahih Muslim). Although its ethos is based on Islamic values, people of all faiths and backgrounds volunteer every year for the same purpose, inspiring goodness internationally.
The community spirit that is produced provides a source of inspiration, enabling mobilization of people as members of a community rather than as individuals to tackle problems pervasive and monumental in scale. This unity is what we hope will provide a lasting solution to the suffering of children around the world, and emerge as the legacy of Charity Week for generations to come.
The legacy of Charity Week remains in the hands of volunteers at the forefront, travailing to ameliorate the condition of their impoverished brothers and sisters across the globe. The following are encapsulations of ‘the meaning of Charity Week’; a synopsis of motivations and inclinations regarding Charity Week, according to a handful of volunteers:
“Charity Week is a means to bond, form true friendships, and a vehicle for attaining goodness through small actions that have a profound impact.”– Rehana Byrne (Charity Week Co-Head)
“Charity Week has been a means to do good and get closer to my faith whilst at University.”– Yasin Uddin (Charity Week Co-Head)
“Charity Week sees Muslims unite for the sake of Allah SWT alone, to help those in need.”– Razi Rashid (Islamic Society Campaigns Manager)
“Charity Week is all about uniting under the common goal of fundraising for those less fortunate than us to draw closer to and please Allah SWT.”– Suraya Gafore (Charity Week Auction Head)
“Charity Week inspires an appreciation for how each small act of charity really does add up; uniting and spiritually empowering us to do more for those in need!”– Noor Ali (Islamic Society Campaigns Manager)
The principles of Charity Week form a microcosm of Islam as a way of life, which teaches us that “charity does not in any way decrease our wealth” (narrated by Abu Huraira).
Furthermore, research by Harvard University showed spending on others elicits greater happiness than spending on ourselves, and may improve our health. Thus, to me, Charity Week is selfishly altruistic. It is a means of cultivating happiness and good health for others, and myself.
What will Charity Week mean to you?