The Mills College Muslim Student Alliance (MSA) held a fast-a-thon on Sept. 7 for the victims of the recent floods in Pakistan.
The fast-a-thon took place for about 14 hours, from 5 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., after which the group broke their fast by eating dates, naan and samosas.
The MSA took donations from the participants of the fast-a-thon and sold small hand-made purses at the dinner celebration. The MSA also received a $50 pledge from Red Seafood Market in Sacramento, according to Suzan Boulad, a Mills Senior and the MSA’s business manager.
All the proceeds of the event will be donated to Hidaya, a California-based aid organization that is currently helping victims of the floods in Pakistan.
A fifth of Pakistan was covered in water after torrential rain storms caused the central Indus river to overflow. The floods affected over 20 million people, 3,000 miles of road and 7,000 schools, drowned over 200,00 livestock and destroyed or damaged 2 million homes, reported The Economist.
The flood waters have now receded into the Indian Ocean, which is good news according to Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Dan Feldman.
“There are still enormous concerns,” Feldman said in an interview on August 30 at the Department of State, “particularly on the health front about stagnant water, on shelter issues, and the situation is still deteriorating in some parts of the country, particularly in Sindh, where 6 million people have been displaced and 4.5 million need humanitarian assistance.”
It was this tragedy that the MSA at Mills wanted to bring to peoples’ attention.
“We felt that this disaster has fallen under the radar,” said Sahar Momand, Mills senior and president of the MSA, when asked about her reasons for donating to the flood victims in Pakistan. “It hasn’t gotten the money and attention it needs.”
The dinner celebration included words from Momand and others of the MSA, as well as the comments from fast participants.
“There’s something special about fasting at Mills,” said Momand, noting the feelings of isolation that come with fasting in a community that is not primarily Muslim. “But it highlights the unique qualities of fasting.”
Before breaking the fast, Aya Fawakhiri, a member of MSA, recited a dua, or short prayer:
“Allahumma inni laka sumtu wa bika aamantu wa alayka tawakkaltu was ala rizq-ika-aftarhu. O Allah! I fasted for You and I believe in You and I put my trust in You and I break my fast with Your sustenance.”
As the fast came to a close, participants were asked to share their thoughts about the experience. The group needed some encouragement at first to open up.
“Who felt tired?” asked Momand to get the group talking. Almost everyone raised their hands and chuckled softly. The question got the ball rolling.
“It was a lot harder than I thought it would be,” said Mills junior, Elizabeth Welsh. “But it was very rewarding.”
First year Gaby Castillo also found the experience difficult. It was her first time fasting.
“I just wanted to try it out,” Castillo said. She is a member of Mujeres Unidas, but wanted to experience another culture. The flood relief effort also motivated her actions, she said.
Of the participants, a large number were not members of MSA. The group received 40 pledge forms from non-MAS members, according to Momand.
Another participant, Margaret Pixley, a Senior at Mills, shared a unique opinion of her experience fasting.
“It was very liberating for me,” she said. “It opened the up the day. I didn’t have to go eat.”
Several participants expressed difficulties with keeping their composure throughout the day, feeling particularly irritable and stressed.
“That’s really what this month is about – self control,” Boulad said about Ramadan.
Momand agreed with Boulad, saying that fasting is not only about refusing food and drink, but also about “keeping out negative thoughts.”
Zainab Shabbir, a junior at Mills and member of the MSA, closed the evening by thanking the attendees and stressing the importance of their community at Mills.
Brindah Metah, the MSA’s advisor, also said a few words to the group in closing.
“You’re incredible women,” she said. “Thank you for your compassion.”