Invalid Displayed Gallery

On July 11th, 2015, IDI GTA hosted the annual Ramadan Iftar dinner with the Town of Ajax, and Indo-Canadian Association of Durham (ICAD). The event took place at the Ajax Community Centre.

The welcome remarks began with IDI GTA’s Executive Vice President, GTA West, Azim Shamshiev. He introduced Ramadan as a tune up for Muslims’ spiritual lives, with strong individual and community aspects. This is something essential to the intercultural dialogue that is at the core of IDI’s Iftar dinners. He thanked Shashi Bhatia, President of the ICAD and the Town of Ajax, as well as the volunteers. Citizenship and Immigration Canada were thanked for their help in funding twelve Iftar dinners.

Tracy MacCharles, MPP Pickering-Scarborough East, spoke on how she enjoyed coming to the annual dinners as well as honoured ICAD and IDI GTA with a certificate. Joe Dickson, MPP Ajax-Pickering, presented IDI with a certificate.

The daughter of IDI’s Outreach Representative Aysh Koca, Aysha Koca, once again gave an overview of Ramadan and the practice of fasting. Ramadan is the 9th month of the lunar calendar and it moves throughout the seasons at a slow rate. Sahoor is the pre-dawn meal and Iftar, the sunset meal. “How do we know the times?” she asked, “There are apps.” Children are not advised to fast until they hit puberty, as well as women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, the elderly, or those with diabetes. She explained that fasting is an individual choice with God.

She described the enhanced spirituality while fasting and the sense of community. Fasting provides us with more control over our lives, she said. Some enzymes and hormones only release when we’re hungry or fasting and it is the same with our emotions and souls. Communities are connected through hunger and by improving themselves, the community as a whole improves. Ramadan is a spiritual journey that begins as something personal and goes on to become a community event in which people repair relationships and are generally nicer and more generous with each other.

Carolyn Hoa, nine, performed “I Believe”, originally the 2010 Winter Olympics song.

The evening progressed to the Keynote address by Garth Knox, Manager, Employee & Labour Relations, City of Toronto, who has been a lifetime volunteer of many aid organizations, including Meals on Wheels, Out of the Cold, and Global Medic. He began his address by reminding the attendees how fortunate we are to live in Canada, where people are wealthier than most. He had asked himself “What can I do?”, since though he lived in abundance he was not wealthy enough to donate large sums of money or hospital wings, but he found he could donate his time and encouraged everyone to do so. With an average of thirty thousand days for a human lifespan, there was time to spare.

Garth Knox spoke of his discovery and time with GlobalMedic, an organization that filled the niche of immediate aid response—48 to 72 hours—directly following a natural disaster. He discovered that simple things like handing out water bottles were the tasks for which the organization needed volunteers. During his visits he was able to take stock of the good fortune he was lucky to experience, especially when one pregnant woman answered that her only wish was to have food each day.

Continuing his frank and earnest address, he told the story of how the Canadian volunteers realized that a wish for food would not enter the minds of many Canadians as quickly, and Garth Knox was very glad to know that he could make her wish come true. The woman has food every day and a healthy baby now, but he continues to share this story so that others can take stock of how lucky we are and as a call to action.

Garth Knox finished his address with encouraging us all to keep asking “What can I do?” because thoughts drive our actions for change.

Shashi Bhatia, on behalf of the ICAD, and Fatih Yegul, Executive Vice President of IDI GTA, presented Garth Knox with the winning art piece from the Durham Art & Essay Contest, with the theme “Volunteers: Heroes Among Us”.

Pat Perkins, MP Whitby-Oshawa, recognized the Council of the Town of Ajax for helping to organize this event every year, as well as Hon. Chris Alexander, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, who has made it a point to fund several Iftar dinners every year. She gave praise to ICAD and IDI to help educate us in celebrations that bring us together, to understand what we celebrate and why.

Joanne Dies, Ward 3 of the Town of Ajax, spoke on behalf of the Mayor of the Town of Ajax and the Council, on the impact of the community and cultural work for people who move to Ajax and want to get to know their neighbours.

The call to prayer was performed before guests enjoyed an excellent dinner.