Like many people, Zaki Shah has had a rough year. But instead of complaining about the COVID-19 pandemic, the 21-year-old Mount Royal University student is counting his blessing and helping others.
“It’s made me realize a lot of things in terms of just being grateful for what I have. Just the fact I have a roof over my head and I can eat whenever I want. This is honestly the absolute least I could do. Just to give back a little bit,” Shah said.
Shah is one of hundreds of volunteers with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association in Calgary that are working on the Neighbourhood Helper campaign.
It was launched back in April to get food and medicine out to people isolating at home. Organizers say they’re seeing an increase in demand now.
“We have really seen a pick up, especially in the Calgary region, since November, where we are getting more and more calls,” said Qamar Ahmad, social outreach director for the Calgary region of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association.
“As we know, Alberta is going through a significant second wave and a lot of individuals who are in the province alone, living by themselves, are calling us.”
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Ahmad said there’s been no problem getting young people out to drive supplies around the city to people who can’t get out, even with Calgary’s recent huge snowstorm.
“Our volunteers are always willing and ready to go out in the community. It is a mandate of our faith to serve our community and some of our congregations are not able to gather, so whenever we do call the volunteers, they’re very happy to come out and contribute in some way,” Ahmad said.
Ahmad said that in some cases, the volunteers with the Neighbourhood Helper campaign are the last option for people in need.
“The individuals calling us, many of them have no other options. Because they’re in the province of Alberta alone or in Calgary alone,” Ahmad said.
“So many of them are very grateful because a lot of the other organizations weren’t able to help in such a quick turnaround time.”
On Christmas Eve, Shah and his friend Munib Ali were busy helping assemble hampers at the Centre for Newcomers.
Shah said despite the challenging driving conditions, he was happy to be able to make a difference at a time when so many are in need of help.
“It’s a time where you want family during New Year and Christmas time and it’s the least we can do – maybe give a little company when we get there and just help out the most we can,” Shah said.