Interview with Charity Week Co – Leads, Fatima Suleiman (LLB) and Mohamed Amine (BSc Accounting & Finance)
By: Sanna Hamid, BA History and International Relations.
‘Charity Week’ is a global initiative started by the charity Islamic Relief. Institutions across the world raise as much as they can in a week packed with events for various causes, powered by Just Giving. There are three main fundraising categories: Healthcare, Education and Orphan Sponsorship. Specific projects within each category can be chosen, such as psychosocial support of children in Gaza, building schools for children in Idlib and increasing access to health care for children in Afghanistan. There are annual campaigns in the UK, US, Malaysia, Ireland, Germany, Qatar, Canada and South Africa. It’s an opportunity for communities to unite and demonstrate the collective power they hold to positively impact the world. It embodies the Islamic principles of unity and wealth redistribution. Not only does it provide aid to developing and war-torn countries, but it develops so many useful skills for all who participate in it.
“In the UK alone, 1243 schools, universities and companies took part this year – collectively raising over half a million pounds for children in need. The heavy lifting was done by London universities; their contribution amounting to £375,526.07. This year, SOAS contributed £29,921.54, the highest SOAS has ever raised.“
From an initial idea in 2000, ‘Charity Week’ has grown to become one of the world’s largest volunteer-led and organised campaigns. The total international amount raised was $2.3m, a new record. In the UK alone, 1243 schools, universities and companies took part this year collectively raising over half a million pounds for children in need. The heavy lifting was done by London universities, their contribution amounting to £375,526.07. This year, SOAS contributed £29,921.54 – the highest SOAS has ever raised.
The committee this year was led by Fatima Suleiman and Mohamed Amine, both final-year students who met with the Spirit to discuss their experience in more detail. The official ‘Charity Week’ dates were 24th – 30th October, but to maintain healthy competition with larger London universities (the likes of UCL, KCL & Imperial), they extended it from 17th October – 6th November. During this period, they raised money by having regular bake sales around campus and hosting ticketed events including a FIFA night, a sister’s cultural night, games nights, quiz nights, calligraphy and ‘Milksheikh’ stalls, a sports day, a Hastings trek, the auction dinner and even authorised collections outside Holborn tube station. The Q&A went as follows:
How many people were in the organising team?
Around 12 students were in the committee altogether, with each person in charge of a specific event and everyone else helped out.
How long have you been planning this?
A couple of weeks before university started. Brainstorming ideas, planning specific events and making timelines of what would actually be happening, then regular one hour meetings every couple of weeks in preparation.
What was the planning process like?
Fatima: ‘At the beginning, it was really exciting coming up with lots of really good ideas of what we are going to do, but the execution was trickier. The planning process went smoothly for the most part. For the biggest event, the charity auction dinner, all the auction items had to be acquired (ideally through donations) in advance, which meant contacting hundreds of businesses to explain our proposition. When it came to the actual events, there were lots of unforeseen circumstances, specifically complications with room bookings within SOAS.’
What activity or event raised the most money?
As a stand-alone event, the auction dinner. Entry cost £25 per head, and then after competitive bidding, £13,000 was raised in one night from auction items. The cake that was donated by a small business on Instagram (@_thelittlekitchen_) sold for £3000. In second place, the Hasting treks raised £11,784 from individuals’ Just Giving pages.
How much did some other universities raise?
UCL came in first place, raising £54,103. Imperial was 2nd, raising £36,698. Simply because of numbers, other universities managed to raise more, but in proportion to the amount of students we have, we did very well.
How did you balance your studies and Charity Week?
There was a ‘no missed tutorials’ policy that most people managed to stick to. As third years, some modules in certain degrees are graded by work done in tutorials.
Fatima: ‘Especially because it’s the third year, you want to do well. I like to keep myself busy, but I feel like charity week was the first time I thought maybe it’s getting too much. I kind of knew my limits then. Definitely, right now, I am still catching up. During it, I did the basics, like preparing for tutorials. Anything extra, definitely not.”
What was the hardest part about the whole process for you?
Fatima: ‘Every event.’
Mohamed: ‘Dealing with the back and forth with coaches for Hastings when they got back with random price increases. That’s one reason why we did Hastings instead of Snowdon, because the prices were so high.’
What motivated you to do this?
Fatima: ‘Definitely for the sake of Allah.’
Mohamed: ‘The fact that we’re doing something to help the poor and the money is going to impact lives for the foreseeable future. Also that as Muslims, we are people of action. As Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) says, “The ummah is one body,” so we should take action and help those that aren’t as fortunate as us.’
How can others get involved in the Charity week committee next year?
Mohamed: ‘I got involved through the Islamic Society. Charity Week itself is very Muslim-dominated, but also anyone could get involved if they wanted to. You just need good people skills and come with lots of ideas about ways to bring money in.’
Fatima: ‘Also, by just coming to events, you’ll meet lots of people.’
What advice would you give the committee next year?
Mohamed: ‘Plan ahead way more than you think you need to. Give yourself enough time for planning and your studies. Don’t allow yourself to get stressed out over numbers or over things that are not in your control. And have fun!’
Fatima: ‘Have ‘Tawakul’ (Trust in God) that everything will go smoothly. There were times when an hour before the event, we would have everything planned, but we didn’t have a room. It’s understandable because lots of societies are trying to book rooms, but Alhumdullilah (All praise and thanks to God) we knew Allah would provide a way, and everything turned out well in the end.’
(Some answers may be paraphrased)
Featured Photo Caption: Charity Week’ Co Leads and the cake that sold for £3000 donated by @_thelittlekitchen_ (Credits: Zubayr Beg and Fatima Suleiman).