Ilyaas at RTP Manchester 2015
Last year, during the hectic period of Exams and Sister’s Wedding Madness (around mid-May), I got a text from a friend I had met on a delegation to Bosnia just two months earlier about a project she had been involved in for a year called Ramadan Tent Project ; and she wondered if I’d be interested. She said she’d pass my number on to Omar who I had a brief chat with and before the end of the day I was in an RTP Meeting with the Manchester Team.
I had experience in organising small scale events and had helped in the management of larger ones but nothing would be enough to prepare me for the task of Ramadan Tent Project. I remember throughout all of June I was super stressed about what was going to happen and Mohamed and Marium kept telling me it was going to be fine. I thought they were crazy, turns out they were right.
After all the weeks of organising and an email chain longer than a dissertation bibliography, it was time for the event. 3 nights of Ramadan Tent for the final 3 nights of Ramadan, and they were truly incredible; a brilliant project to be a part of. International Students who were spending Ramadan alone were now breaking a fast with others for the first time! We had guests from our Chancellor elect who was told about the event from volunteers on the street to Masters Students popping in after a day in the Library.
The 3 nights were truly the highlight for my Ramadan 2015 with speakers and poets filling up the evenings with talks on the importance of communities together, of interfaith dialogue and highlighting the importance of RTP’s events and message. The Committee and Volunteers made the event memorable for all our guests with many returning for a second day because of the atmosphere. The atmosphere was so serene even some of our non-Muslim guests were also fasting in a wonderful display of solidarity and community cohesion. At the end of all the talks and in the minutes before Iftaar I said the same thing each night “In the spirit of RTP, take a few minutes to chat to the people next to you, opposite you and around you – ask them how their days have gone and speak about anything”. We don’t talk to each other enough.
That’s why after we had started planning RTP 2016 when I saw a little tab about the “Making a Difference Award” at the University of Manchester I submitted a nomination for Ramadan Tent Project for Inspiring Communities. At a time when Muslims in the UK receive a disproportionate amount of negative press and face difficulties in their communities, RTP is needed more than ever and to be championed and celebrated more than ever.
When I received the news it had been shortlisted, I was elated! The hard work of students in Manchester (and students in London – haven’t forgotten you), of organising a huge event alongside their degrees is being rewarded. We won’t find out if we’ve won until mid-May but even if we don’t win, I know we’ll continue to build on it from year to year. Also if the judging panel is reading this, we do actually still want the award (no, we do) (I’m not joking please give us the award).
I’d like to take this moment to thank everyone on my RTP Journey so far – Shout out to Marium for letting me know about it so I could get involved and to the rest of the RTP Manchester Committee for all their hard work, advice and guidance! (Special shout out to Mohamed for making sure I was eating on the days as well as all his hard work leading the team!) Massive thank you to all of our volunteers without whom RTP Manchester wouldn’t have been the success it was and to all the members of SU staff involved in the organisation of the event! With RTP Manchester 2016 plans already in motion we’ll be bringing you our biggest yet!
I’d like to end this brief and terribly written article by saying I still get a buzz even after I’ve said it 1000 times to people- from MP’s to Freshers and University Staff to my Grandma – that Ramadan Tent is all about bringing a community together over the simple act of sharing a meal. And everyone who knows me knows those are two of my favourite things.*
*One slightly more than the other but I won’t tell you which.
Guests and volunteers at RTP Manchester 2015