Hana Galal is on a mission. The 22-year-old university student raised more than $1,200 for charity in one night.
She grew up guided by the Islamic pillar of charity and has spent her life donating from her allowance. That is a challenge on her student budget at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
She now has to be more creative about her giving.
“You don’t have to give thousands and thousands of dollars. But you should be doing something,” said Galal.
She thinks it is important to provide all students, regardless of religion, the opportunity to donate time and not just money. As the head of the outreach committee, she helped organize a charity service auction.
Galal and committee members pestered students to offer their services. At every meal they would brainstorm students’ marketable skills and convince them to sign up for the auction.
The final list included guitar lessons, stargazing, vacuuming and a lab tour.
On the night of the auction, student diners at St. John’s College wrote bids for services on pieces of paper. The live auction at dinner got quick results.
Fellow student Ziaul Hasan offered his computer expertise. He tries to follow the pillar of zakat, but rarely gives money to charity. He appreciated the opportunity to donate time.
Zakat is one of the five Islamic pillars. It asks Muslims to donate 2.5 per cent of their earnings each year. Those with disposable income are encouraged to redistribute funds to the less fortunate.
“It’s not for students,” said Mohammed Charakla, a Pakistan Students’ Association executive at the University of British Columbia.
Students cannot donate money because they do not have savings and survive on loans, he said.
Last year, the student unemployment rate was approximately 55 per cent, according to Statistics Canada. On average employed students earned only about $6,300.
The importance of charity
But that does not stop Muslim students from helping.
Muslims are raised to be generous, said Omar Badi-Uz-Zaman, a recent graduate from UBC.
“Most people grow up feeling that they’re part of a family or a larger group,” he said. “You kind of do whatever you can to help each other out.”
That help is not limited to money. He said the prophet Muhammad even considered a smile to be charity.
Like Galal, Badi-Uz-Zaman contributes by providing others with a means for giving. This year he organized the PSA’s walk supporting flood victims in Pakistan.
“We wanted to do something,” said Amna Rahore, the association’s vice president. They wanted to raise money and increase awareness about the flood’s aftermath.
Walking to give
Students joined Badi-Uz-Zaman for a 15 kilometre walk. Participants carried pre-made signs, displayed them to passing cars and encouraged them to honk. Many complied.
“Haiti + Tsunami + Katrina < Pakistani Flood,” read the black lettering painted on one of the white boards.
One student held a wooden donation box and everyone solicited help along the way. Some strangers even donated.
Students raised most of the money at the university and participants who could not contribute money helped organize the event.
The association set up stalls in the Student Union Building. They educated students about the issue and explained how the Canadian government promised to match all monetary contributions.
The association raised about $9,000 more, while Badi-Uz-Zaman raised about $6,000 alone.
He said he witnessed less fortunate friends give more than their means.
“Bank balance is never indicative of how generous you are,” he said.