Makkah, Saudi Arabia - South African pilgrims in Makkah for the annual hajj rites are going the extra mile and ensuring less fortunate visitors to the holy city in Saudi Arabia have a meal to eat.
Joburg-based social activist Yusuf Abramjee, known in South Africa for his work as a journalist, started the project last week. He is in Makkah for his first five-day hajj journey, which starts on Saturday.
Abramjee launched the Hajj Feeding Scheme last Friday and to date has raised R250 000 to buy food for destitute pilgrims who “don’t have a next meal”.
“Hundreds of pilgrims in Makkah simply sleep along streets and outside the Grand Mosque. A few of us decided to do something and within minutes we raised R70 000 amongst SA pilgrims,” he said.
Abramjee and other volunteers initially went to the local Bin Dawood Supermarket to buy food for immediate distribution. They invited others to contribute cash and help distribute the food.
He said that after Friday prayers last week, a group of South Africans had distributed over 400 food packs and 1 000 bottles of water.
“Within minutes it was all gone. Pilgrims lined up for the food and water. We are making a small difference. And in true South African tradition, we are again opening our hearts,” said Abramjee.
Pilgrims who received help were from Bangladesh, Egypt, Ghana, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.
The activist has been engaging his Twitter audience, totalling just over 15 000 followers, with updates about the hajj and the feeding scheme.
“Back home the message spread fast on social media and we raised a further R180 000. Cash is still coming in for the feeding scheme,” said Abramjee.
He said they would continue throughout the hajj buying destitute pilgrims food. Their aim is to alleviate the discomfort pilgrims without much money or food would endure especially during they daytime, when temperatures soar to the mid-40 degrees C.
Abramjee was involved in Operation Hydrate earlier this year, assisting with drought alleviation efforts in South Africa.
Some pilgrims who joined Abramjee have given their feedback for the project.
Mubeen Adam from Pretoria said: “I was touched when I saw how many people needed food. They scrambled for it.”
Husband and wife Rahim and Aisha Haroon from Joburg added: “We cannot sit back and watch people going hungry.”
Islam’s Prophet Muhammad encouraged pilgrims to enrich their hajj by “providing food to people”.
Saudi newspaper Arab News has reported that Arafat Day, when hajjis pray on the plains of Arafat near Makkah at the peak of the annual pilgrimage, will be on Sunday.