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ROOTS LDN – Community Research Project 2018

ROOTS LDN – Community Research Project 2018

ROOTS LDN (Summary)

Between February and May of 2018, You Press collaborated with the Greater London Authority (GLA) in order to deliver a community research project that focused on social inclusion, integration and developing civic leaderships in communities that currently do not have a voice in City Hall. Originally aiming for 12 participants from the BAME demographic ranging from 16-30-years-old, You Press managed to bring in 18 researchers to collect data regarding topics of communal concern. Once research had been completed, all researchers were required to express their findings through a piece of visual, audio or written art. Read more here…

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 You Press collaborated with the GLA in order to find out how improvements could be made in bridging the gap between communities who are less well-represented and the authorities. We originally planned for 12 young researchers between the ages of 16-30 in the BAME community to conduct research with at least five family members and friends to see what concerns them in the community. The project gained so much attention that we ended up bringing on board 18 bright young people who were keen in expressing themselves creatively.

 On 7th February 2018, we delivered the first workshop for our Community Research Project called ROOTS LDN at the Paddington Arts facility. Like most meetings, our selected researchers were shy in communicating with each other at first. But after three core workshops over the course of six weeks, all of us managed to open up to each other, sharing our stories and expressing our diverse range of artistic thought.

In the opening core workshop, we worked with the researchers in a group activity that involved finding the group values that we would reflect on over the course of the project. We managed to come up with five. Honesty, Trust, Empathy, Inspire and Fun.

We queried what these five core values meant to each of us and concluded:

Honesty – to be honest not only with the You Press team, but with yourself in what you will be able to commit to during the duration of the project.

Trust – to have trust in the You Press staff to provide a safe space in order to work and communicate regarding the project. Whilst utilising the trust you already have with family members to record effective and detailed data.

Empathy – to relate to the stories we share with each other. Creating a bond that not only brings the community together, but helps provide a better understanding of the plight of others.

Inspire – to inspire and be inspired. With the anecdotes you share and collect, the ability to convert what you gathered into a creative piece of art.

Fun – to have fun! In order to work effectively, there must be stimuli that helps you get your creative juices flowing. Whether through conversation or sharing your creative pieces in the workshops.

In the second core workshop, the researchers alongside project coordinators shared their countries of heritage. From that, each participant created a short piece of poetry to share back to the group. Some of the work achieved that day displayed a lot of powerful verses revealing not only the pride of each researchers’ countries, but also the hardships faced through their history.

In our final core workshop, we discussed and demonstrated the literary technique used by writers known as ‘Anecdotal Recollection’. In pairs, participants had to tell each other a short bizarre story with the task being to rewrite the story that they listened to. The aim was to demonstrate the core value of Inspire by listening to these stories and interpreting them into their own artistic styles in written form.

All researchers were required to record their data from a minimum of five family members and submit their creative output by the end of March 2018. After a month of data analysis, May 2018 saw the completion and celebration of the project. Which included live performances of each researchers’ creative output.

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A GROWTH MINDSET READ

I pride myself in being mostly focused on fiction as a reader. I adore big castles, dramatic battles and a good character arc, however I’m not averse to non-fiction. Throughout the years I’ve delved into a few non-fiction pages that truly changed my life, or at the very least gave me a new perspective. Here are some of my top pics:

How win friends and influence people

This book by Dale Carnegie was written in 1936, but don’t let the date fool you. It’s an intricate detailing of the best ways to make an impression and get people to like you. Whilst we should all accept that not everybody will be our cup of tea, Dale Carnegie explains how to network and excel with people both in your personal and professional life. It also includes many stories to make the lessons truly sink in. It’s one of those books that you actually should read every year, because the lessons transcend time but we also forget them quickly. Get a copy now and never let it go.

Sapiens

Possibly my favourite book, Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari is a true game changer. It gives a complete history of humans, our evolution, our behaviour, and so many other interesting points. If you’ve ever felt at a loss for the future of humans, read this book and its sequel, Home Deus, for a true perspective on the intricacies of how we operate. It might give you peace knowing that some parts of human behaviour have been consistent for millennia – it might also sadden you to know we’re not likely to change any time soon. If you want perspective, history and philosophy, I can 100% recommend.

The 5am Club

If you’ve ever wished a non-fiction book could be written like a story, the 5am club is for you. It details the story of 3 strangers who meet a conference, and one of them turns out to be super successful all because of his morning routine. He invites the other 2 to join his “5am Club” and takes the characters and the readers of a journey to establish a morning routine for champions. His advice is really good (although I myself struggle to get up at 5am) and when applied it can no doubt change your life.

If you’ve read these books, don’t let that stop you from continuing on your non-fiction journey! Non-fiction is built for those who want to grow, learn and understand. Where fiction can subtly teach us about the world, non-fiction can make these lessons blatant and easy to understand. Pick up non-fiction every now and then, especially when the real world feels difficult. You might just learn something. 

Written by Gabrielle Coetzee

THE UNIVERSITY ESSENTIALS

As an international student, I’ve learned what’s needed at university the hard way. When I needed something urgently and I didn’t have money, I couldn’t easily run to my parents and ask for some quick cash. Throughout my semester at the University of Pennsylvania this happened a lot of times – a truly embarrassing amount.

So here’s a complete list of things I forgot about to help save you from making the same mistakes.

Clothing for all weather

This might seem obvious, but I come from a country where temperature outside = temperature inside. I assumed it would be the same at university. I was going during the winter, therefore I only needed winter clothes. As it turned out buildings feel like summertime indoors, and winter clothes would never work for days spent indoors. Pack for all occasions, even if you don’t think they’ll happen. Bonus Tip: If you come from a place where it doesn’t snow, buy snow shoes. You will fall without them.

Use your dining hall

I spent an embarrassing amount of money on groceries like salt, honey and fruits until I realised that I could go to an (already paid for) dining hall and grab a few things from there. You might have to sneakily grab some things depending on your university’s policies, but it’s worth it. Save your money. Being a student is hard enough without being completely broke.

Food from home

Adjusting to a new place is already tough. Make your life easier by packing in a few things that remind you of home. Personally, I packed Rooibos Tea and a few of my favourite spices that are only made at home – I can recommend Flippen Lekker for all of my South African friends. This means that every now and then you can indulge in something that’s familiar and comfortable as well as give your friends a chance to try. If you can’t take food, try taking recipes if you have facilities to cook.

If you focus on these three things, you’ll definitely not have the struggles that I did. Make no mistake – you’ll experience your own obstacles! However, that’s all part of the fun of learning independence and self-sufficiency. Take it in your stride.

Written by Gabrielle Coetzee

THE VALUE OF FICTION

It all started in 6th grade. Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson launched my life into a whole world that I never thought could’ve existed. It was a world filled with adventure, gods, powers and friends. Since then, it’s been Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones and many more. So many fictional worlds that have enraptured my attention to a degree that the real world never could.

Many readers will sympathise when I say that family and friends often struggle to understand the value of digging one’s nose in a book, especially a fictional one. There would be questionable looks, confused gazes and furrowed eyebrows when, as a child, you were far more content to sit on the floor and read rather than watch tv or play with the cousins.

As an avid reader, I can honestly say that I’ve learned many lessons from fiction. While others might view it as nonsensical, here are a few things that non-fiction readers will always struggle to grasp:

The Grey Area. Whilst non-fiction conveys facts, figures and history, fiction gives us an up-close and personal view of life’s unending truth: nothing is black and white. In any fictional journey there’s always a morally grey character, or a choice between two evils. The thing about fiction is that there is no conclusion or point to prove – there’s just a story, and each reader has liberty to interpret that story how they wish. Each reader can decide what’s moral, what’s suspicious, and how they wish to see characters. When you’ve been inside the head of a villain and seen their backstory, it’s easy to have compassion even when they commit atrocities. Fiction teaches understanding.

Psychology. While no reader can truly say they have a degree in psychology, they can argue that they understand humans somewhat better than if they hadn’t read anything before. If you read general fiction from the perspective of many different people from different countries, races and religions imagine the understanding that you can build of different communities. This is also where diversity in authorship is incredibly important. Readers who make a point of reading from a diverse range of authors can learn so much about the experiences of others. Fiction teaches empathy.

The hard truth. Reading about dystopian societies or even modern communities teaches readers the hardest truth that there is: no human, government or organisation is perfect. There are fundamental flaws in every collective grouping. Readers who know the likes of the Hunger Games, Divergent or The 100 will know this tale very well. So many characters and societies fall prey to their flaws, but readers know that there’s always another way. We can always try to be better. Fiction teaches perseverance.

Written by Gabrielle Coetzee

WHAT THE ANIMAL KINGDOM CAN TEACH US ABOUT LIFE

It takes only 1 trip to the Kruger National Park of South Africa to not only fall in love with nature, but to learn from it. The immense animal kingdom of the savannah has many lessons to teach us, if only we take the time to listen. From leopards to lizards, here’s what I learned in my 4 days of immersion:

You always have a role to play. The food chain and natural order make for a complex system, but they ultimately teach that every organism has a part to play in the health of the environment. In my trip, we witnessed a leopard eating a small impala whilst nestled in a tree, as well as a hyena begging for scraps and vultures watching closely. This single interaction displays the ultimate fact of the wild: in every situation, there are role players.

The leopard is the predator, the impala the prey, and the vultures and hyena the clever scavengers. In the human world, I believe the principal is the same. Whilst we don’t have roles like predator or prey, we have titles such as mother, friend, listener and mentor. In every situation we have a role to play, and I believe that accepting that role brings us one step closer to peace. If you are a friend, you must accept that your role is to support. If you are a mother, you must accept that your role is to love. In the same way that a predator doesn’t feel guilty for playing its role in nature, we should accept our roles in our relationships and organisations.

Patience is always rewarded. The morning after the leopard’s kill, we found the same cat eating the last remains in a new tree, surrounded by hyenas on all sides. They had been waiting the whole night for something to eat. The leopard did not willingly share anything, although it couldn’t help that it accidently dropped a leg onto the floor through a misplaced bite. The hyenas immediately relished the opportunity and found themselves full. A whole night of waiting finally reaped a reward. There were surely many moments where even the hyena doubted its luck, but eventually its patience was rewarded. At the end of the day, it’s patience that will grant us happiness.

With the right people, anything is possible. A pride of lions had been stalking an unsuspecting heard of buffalo for nearly 2 days. We arrived on the scene with 4 lions confronting a bull on one of the main roads of the reserve. The buffalo had chosen their strategy well: the mothers had gone ahead with the youngest, whilst the strong bulls separated into groups to ward off their predators. With teamwork, the group of young bulls chased away the lions and granted their herd safety. In life, few things can be done alone. A lone buffalo would’ve easily fallen prey to the pride, but as a group they protected each other. In the same way we as humans must build our own herds. We must choose people who will protect us and love us in the face of danger, otherwise we’re easy prey as well.

Written by Gabrielle Coetzee

AN INTERNATIONAL STUDENT’S REFLECTION

Being an international student is as exciting as the books and Instagram posts make it out to be. It’s a life filled with adventure and opportunity, but it’s also one of the greatest challenges I’ve ever encountered.

In January of 2021 I flew from O.R Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, to Philadelphia International Airport. 21 hours of flying and an 8 hour layover in Doha later, and I was in the big city. Every girl coming from small suburban roots has had this dream in her mind: standing on a crowded street, lights flashing, cars racing. It was incredible.

It was, however, the middle of the pandemic. The city was closed. No restaurants. No tourism. Hardly any people. I had just come from hot summer days to this miserable, lonely, cold, and I was stuck in a hotel room with my mom before I could even move in. Amazon deliveries were delayed, so I couldn’t get a lot of the stuff I would need to live there. It was all we could do to try and stay positive.

Then I moved in. I didn’t know anybody, and I was thrust into a culture that is very different from my own. It didn’t help that I had been in lockdown for months before that – I’m sure I’m not the only one when I say I felt like I had no social skills left over from months alone in my house. Classes started, and suddenly it was a whirlwind. My mom left to go back home, and I was truly alone in a foreign country.

As with all things in life, things started to turn. I met other South Africans who related to what I was going through. I joined a sorority and met some of the most amazing girls. I was part of a degree program that felt like a small family.

As an international student you find that your low moments are very difficult. You can’t quickly go home for the weekend just for a reset. Many international students don’t go home every year, and with the pandemic that became even more challenging. You’re constantly far away from your people, your family, and old friends.

But you also make new friends. You learn to engage with different cultures and speak new languages. You see some of the world’s most amazing landmarks, and you experience freedom and opportunity like you never have before.

As with most things, being an international student has two sides to it. There are good things, and there are bad, but nothing will take away the gratitude I feel for my opportunity and my chance to study in the United States. Most importantly, I want to thank all the people who make Philadelphia feel like home. It’s because of them that I’m excited to return in the fall for my sophomore year.

By Gabrielle Coetzee

COMBATTING THE FEAR OF A JOB

We’ve all met those people. They hate their jobs. They spend day-in and day-out complaining about strict bosses, non-communicative co-workers, office politics and bad corporate coffee. They find little satisfaction in their daily lives. Nothing at work has given them happiness in a very long time.

The concept of a 9-to-5 has always seemed like a large monster looming over my future as I was growing up. It was the idea that one day all of your time would be dedicated to your job and your whole day would be centered around when you work.  I was terrified of this idea. I didn’t understand how a person’s job could be such a large part of your life, and that you were supposed to enjoy it.

Having only just started my first internship, my opinion has drastically changed. In just a few weeks, I’ve discovered that a job can truly be enjoyable when you have the right environment. Here are my observations for what matters most in establishing a life-long, enjoyable career:

Corporate Culture

This is arguably the most important aspect of any career choice. Will your new work environment have a culture that matches your lifestyle and work-ethic? It is the idea that the people make the place. The organization has certain behaviors and symbols because of the people that form part of that organization. People play a large role in our productivity. If we do not feel accepted into a group, especially at work, our job satisfaction will dramatically decrease, alongside our productivity and output. To enjoy your job, it is essential to enjoy the company of the people you work for and alongside. You’ll never be friends with everybody, but the general cultural norms should suit your own values.

Personal Skills and Interests

The matter is rather simple: if you hate art, don’t become a painter; if you don’t enjoy talking about money, don’t work in a bank. From that perspective, it’s a wonder that we as humans often find ourselves in positions we hate and careers we despise. There are many things that influence our decisions: education, finances, location etc. but one of the most important parts of enjoying your job is being interested in it and being somewhat good at it. We won’t always be good at the things we enjoy, but then we should enjoy learning those skills and gaining more expertise. Imagine spending the rest of your life doomed to something you hate? Try to make your career decisions with your interests in mind. It might not always be possible when our situations demand that we consider other factors beyond interest, but that doesn’t mean interest shouldn’t form some, however minute, part of your decision.

Purpose

Your job should do something for you, or for someone else. If you feel you’re only working so that your superiors might make money or gain acknowledgement, you’ll never enjoy what you do. Perhaps your purpose is in providing something for the community, or for your family, or launching an incredible new product, or receiving recognition for your work. Either way, it is important that you feel your job is benefiting you or your area in some way, otherwise the work will never seem worth it.

By Gabrielle Coetzee

My Ramadan To Yours

I always admired the way my parents would set their alarms to wake up for Sahour. The idea of waking up in the middle of the night to eat as a family was very intriguing and unusual for a seven-year-old as you could probably imagine. I used to desperately beg my mum every single night so that she won’t forget about me. Just to hear the “Ker-Chunk!” of our toaster and indulge into the buttered toasts with some chocolate spread on top.

It was a period where Ramadan fell on the winter months of the calendar, probably around late December times when I first started fasting. The days were short so it was manageable. We would usually break our fasts around 4pm and the last 15 minutes or so would be the most dreadful but the most exciting minutes of our lives.

I always watched what was placed on the dining table during sahour and iftar hours. For me, the star was and is still to this date, the slightly chewy and succulent medjool dates. Knowing that our Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) was a huge fan of dates and used to break his fast with these special fruits is what makes the experience of breaking my fast the same way, a rather sentimental and meaningful one.

I suppose as a child, what appealed to me the most, were the unscheduled dining hours we would have during Ramadan. It seemed to be very adventurous to wake up to something which wasn’t the norm and did not take place in other people’s homes. An experience which I could talk to my friends about. But today as a twenty-seven-year-old my intentions and experiences have changed. Then as a child, I was looking forward to exploring something new, today as an adult, I am looking forward to embracing and bettering something I already have.

As years went by, my relationship with food changed. I became more tolerant and developed a sense of gratitude for everything I had and humbled myself for all the unnecessary things I wanted. Ramadan gradually became a turning point in my life and a time for self-reflection. It helped me change my eating habits to an extent where in 2019 I started my healthy eating journey.

To me the meaning of fasting changes every single year without losing its original value. I try to add something to my current understandings and practices, so that I could improve myself during that time and set myself targets for the upcoming calendar.

Although today our experiences may vary, what has stayed the same for me is, the fact that Ramadan has always helped me cleanse the impurities of my body and mind and has increased the empathy I’ve had for the less fortunate. Not only is fasting a religious practice for me but it is also a commitment which has strengthened my family bonds too.

I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to interview Niloufar Thawer who is a Retail Manager at Paddington Central to discuss and explore her experiences during Ramadan this year.

What are your thoughts on the holy month of Ramadan and do you feel like it changes you?

“I think Ramadan changes you as a person both mentally and physically. Firstly, because you are cleansing your body; secondly, because you are getting closer to God. For me the main one is getting closer to God not only because of the month of Ramadan but because I started noticing other things about the holy month too; like how people may feel if they’re not eating.”

Do you see a change in the way Ramadan rituals are now practiced due to the pandemic?

“For sure. I’m an Ismaili Muslim and I normally go to the South Kensington Mosque. We would normally participate in the duties like saying the dua’as. It’s been a massive change because the mosque was closed and we were unable to go. Therefore, there is a big difference of practicing at home rather than going over there and spending it. Additionally, when it comes to the iftar side you can no longer spend it with family and that doesn’t help as you can’t do the things you were once able to do. I think in some aspects we still went along with it and still got on.”

Does your judgement of refraining from bad habits change with Ramadan?

“Definitely. There’s been a lot of mental health involved such as relaxing your mind and not speaking out when it’s unnecessary. There’s also been a lot of patience that comes with this too which is the major factor for everybody, either seeing somebody eat or seeing somebody do something bad in front of you. You start to refrain from letting it affect you.”

What were your goals for Ramadan this year and have you achieved them?

“I’ve had quite a few goals this year such as doing Ramadan for my father as he had a stroke. Unfortunately, I couldn’t manage this due to my own health conditions. I was only able to fast for a few days. I managed to do my prayers and felt happy to do what I can during that time. In regards to my dad, at least I am still there and looking after his care. My priority is to make sure that I continue with that. But in regards to my goals not being able to fast for him was something I couldn’t achieve. Maybe next year if I’m better I could participate again.”

What kept you motivated during Ramadan?

“Personally, there are quite a few factors such as doing self-care. I think that was quite vital. With everything that I am going through, whether it be looking after my dad or the fact that I’m leaving my job, I’ve had a lot of pressure and was extremely occupied. Despite all of this, I feel like a peaceful and calm person even though I wasn’t fasting the whole month.”

What did you find challenging?

“In the first week, it was very challenging as I needed water very badly. With the headache’s I was getting from the meetings, people could just see that I was drained and I just did not want to talk to anybody.”

How did you prepare for suhoor this year?

“Normally what I do is I opt for something that would stay in my stomach for a long time such as a cereal with bananas, blueberries and raspberries. I try to add more fruit so it gives me the energy I need. And then I’ll make a smoothie and eat some nuts as well to keep me active. The only problem was sleeping straight after as the food makes you energetic.”

What was your favourite part of breaking your fast?

“Looking forward to the food and the smells! Being an Asian woman, there were so many times when I was cooking and was almost putting the spoon in my mouth until I realised oh no I can’t do this. Also, listening to the Adhan during Magrhib made me feel very accomplished.”

How did you manage daily work schedule whilst fasting as a retail manager?

“As I was based at home for that one week I was committed to my fasts, I didn’t have any issues with work. It was only during the day if I had any headaches, I was laying down more frequently. I wasn’t allowing stress at work to get to me and maintained a good balance of continuing with my daily duties.”

What Ramadan traditions do you have as a family?

“What we as Ismaili’s do is, we drink the holy water (Zam-Zam) which we call it Niyaz in our culture when breaking our fast. Next we would have a date straight after and then we would eat our main food. The whole process symbolises how you are breaking that fast. After, we stuff our faces with a big plateful of food.”

How are you planning to celebrate Eid this year?

“I will be preparing kebabs, samosas and biryani. Normally I would be going to the mosque for the Eid Namaz but I guess this year we can’t do that. I am going to be working during the day and later on in the evening, my uncles would be coming over to spend Eid with us. I will be getting my Eidi so I am very happy about that.”

What is one advice you give to yourself and others about Ramadan?

One thing I would definitely say is, just because Ramadan is happening it doesn’t mean that you should change the way you are only for a month. You should be the same all throughout.”

Written by Ayse Kizilkaya

How We Are All Celebrating Ramadan Differently This Year

My name is Sabad Khaire and I’m an intern at You Press. Nearing the end of Ramadan with lockdown measures still in effect this year, every Muslim is observing the holy month in different ways around the world. I personally have a different experience here in London compared to some others. As someone who suffers with chronic kidney failure, a long-term illness where I have to take medication for the rest of my life, I do not fast. Those who are sick, pregnant or of old age are exempt from fasting. One of the ways we celebrate is by doing Fidyah, which is the name for the obligatory charitable contribution when you cannot fast in the required times or make up for your fasts on later dates.

My sister, who shares the same condition, also celebrates Ramadan by cooking with me when we’re having a good day. We support each other by cooking our family’s favourite food and coming up with great new dishes for them to try. We believe that giving a helping hand after a long day of fasting and working is our contribution to Ramadan, with the reward of seeing smiling faces at the end of the day. Celebrating Ramadan is a way of being spiritually aware and treating yourself (and others) better.

I got the chance to interview Shahid Waseem from British Land to discuss his views, thoughts and experiences about the month of Ramadan.

Do you feel like Ramadan changes you?

“I think it does change people. I believe it depends on the individual; some people can go very quiet and I certainly becoming more focused. I do find that a lot of change has happened to my personality during Ramadan.”

Do you feel like you refrain from bad habits that you wouldn’t think of as bad when it’s not Ramadan?

“Yes, you try. Like I wouldn’t be having too much coffee in a day and I’m trying not to use bad language. I’m trying to make a conscious effort. “

Apart from fasting, what is the most challenging part about Ramadan?

“Because of the long days and very short nights as we have to fast for 18 hours, I think sleep could be another issue. If your job is demanding and you have to wake up in the early morning, you don’t get enough sleep.”

Do you feel like the community aspect of Ramadan is important?

“It is but it’s currently quite difficult with COVID. However, being involved with the community is definitely good; going to Friday prayers, there’s a spirit in the air bringing a lot of positive vibes. As a community we make an effort in practicing good deeds, focusing on charity, working at the soup kitchen because collectively you want to be better.”

How are you spending this month of Ramadan with the effects of COVID?

“It has been very different these last couple of years with the mosque being very limited with spaces. Even on Friday prayers you get sent back sometimes, it certainly makes me feel very incomplete and I do miss the sense of normality.”

What’s your favourite part of breaking fast?

“You know, it’s the little things. It’s just looking at the food and gaining happiness, having your favourite food or drink and feeling like ‘ahh I can eat now!’. It’s a blessing. Like the difference is normally we would be opening the fridge ten times a day and having the food in front of you. When that’s taken away, that’s how you humble yourself. I normally don’t go without a drink of coffee and if I don’t have much lunch, I would have probably felt like screaming. But now that I’m fasting, I can work through it and I’m focused for the rest of the day.”

Are there any barriers that stop you from fasting? If so, are there any other things that you do to still celebrating Ramadan?

“There are no barriers for me because religion is important to me and it’s close to my heart. I make no excuse and I still go to work because I want to earn halal. But what I do to celebrate is have my family all together to break fast as we have a family unit which normally don’t eat together.”

What Ramadan traditions do you have as a family?  

We make a lot of fried food like samosas or pakoras because this is the time you want to eat all of that delicious food. Other than that, for my family, it’s mostly fasting.”

What keeps you motivated during this month?

“It is the fact that we are fasting because it is compulsory. It is written in the Qur’an that fasting is upon you, it is a pillar of Islam and it keeps me motivated. But some people do also say that there are health benefits. It makes you more peaceful at heart. Even if you pray five times a day it makes you spiritually cleaner; that hunger gives me purpose.”

What is one advice you’d give to your younger self about Ramadan?

“Don’t eat too much fast food, maybe take Ramadan more seriously and learn more. When you’re a young Muslim, you can learn about Islam and Ramadan because knowledge is power. We focus on learning a lot of other things but if I could go back, I would learn my obligation within Islam and about the Qur’an. We can recite the Qur’an but not properly understand the meaning behind it. I would go back and learn the meaning of the Arabic words that we use during our prayers.

Written by Sabad Khaire

A Very Locked Down Ramadan

So, it’s day three of Ramadan 2021, and the second one in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. I’m an English teacher at a college in London and still working from home. I’m finding fasting tougher this year, knowing that we can’t spend Eid indoors with our extended families. Last year I went on an Eid tour and had doorstep chats with friends and family. This was a really great way to catch up with loved ones in a safe (and legal) manner, however it’s not what many of us were hoping for more a year on. Like many others, my family is planning an outdoor Eid to celebrate at the end of the month of fasting.

Ramadan always brings peace and joy, and it’s also a month of togetherness and charity. I’ve enjoyed spending more time in reflection, and becoming more mindful. The days are long, but I feel calmer and connected. For those that don’t know, Ramadan is the holy month of fasting in Islam. Muslims abstain from eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset for 30 days. We celebrate Eid at the end with our families and friends. If you are a child, elderly, pregnant or unwell, you don’t have to fast.

Since we are practising social distancing due to the global pandemic, many much-loved activities we once took for granted are now out of bounds, or at least limited. This ranges from attending group Iftar and Tarawih prayers at the mosque. As hard as we try, Zoom events just aren’t the same.

Last year, Muslims in the UK donated more than £150m to charity in Ramadan. So this year; I’ve tried to increase my own good deeds in terms of helping others, paying in charity and maintaining ties of kinship. It’s also a great time to volunteer and support those less fortunate in our own communities.

To those fasting for the very first time, I have some tips:

  • Do drink a lot before you begin fasting in order to stay hydrated.
  • Take it easy and let others know you’re fasting.
  • Try to eat healthily when breaking the fast so that you don’t feel bloated or too full.

I would also steer clear of:

  • Staying outdoors for too long in order to avoid becoming overheated.
  • Being around food if you can help it.
  • Any overexertion in order to conserve energy.

People always think it’s a struggle to fast, and it is as you get tired and dehydrated, but somehow it never feels like a chore. I always say that I don’t have the desire or discipline to restrict my diet, yet when it comes to Ramadan, we suddenly have immense willpower unlike any other. The first week is always the hardest, as it’s quite an adjustment, but I know that I’ll be sad when Ramadan ends, and go back to reality. I’m hopeful that this will be a productive month whereby we can build better habits to take with us into a kinder, more improved and safer world.

What are your tips for a greater Ramadan in lockdown?

By Merium Bhuiyan

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