Pandemic Post

Sandy Hill Somali mothers feed front-line workers

Martha Milne

20 kilograms of rice
15 kilograms of chicken
Chickpeas
Potatoes
Flour
Spices
200 samosas
200 Somali sweet buns
Somali chai tea
Buckets of Energy
Hearts full of Generosity

In remarkable times, remarkable people often get busy. Six Somali mothers living in Strathcona Heights are just such remarkable people. These women, with six Somali women from other Ottawa neighbourhoods, have been feeding COVID-19 front-line workers using the ingredients listed above.

With the help of Somali youth, meals have been delivered twice to workers at the Montfort Hospital, the Civic and General hospitals, and twice to Brewer Park’s COVID-19 assessment site and to Ottawa Public Health workers on Constellation Drive. In total, 2,000 meals have been prepared by this hardworking group, while practising strict hygiene and social distancing, and fasting for Ramadan from daybreak to sundown.

The meal preparation initiative was instigated by Ruweida Shire, a Strathcona Heights neighbour and president of the Daryeel: A Youth and Seniors Serving Centre. Volunteers at Daryeel came up with a workable plan.

From 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., “we cooked in our own homes and then delivered the food,” explained Ruweida. “Our youth helped us get the ingredients and with the deliveries too.”

All the food was donated by local Somali businesses and individuals. The Shafie Food Centre, on Russell Road, and Alta Juba Supermarket, on Albion Road, both donated halal chicken. Alhuda Restaurant, a Somali restaurant on Bank Street in Alta Vista, contributed samosas and rice. Individuals in the community also donated rice and other ingredients. The buckets of energy that made this project a resounding success were given happily and voluntarily.

What prompted Ruweida and her team to take on such a huge undertaking?

“I know a lot of people at the hospitals. We wanted to do something,” said Ruweida. “A lot of these front-line workers are mothers too. The workers in the hospital need to know we want to help. They need to know we are praying for them and that they are not alone.”

The gratitude expressed by the workers when the food was delivered was heart-warming. “One lady at the General Hospital cried when she saw the food. She couldn’t believe it,” said Ruweida. “They were so happy.”

Ruweida agreed to share the story of these remarkable women and their gift of food only after understanding that this “good news story” would help others during these pandemic times. “In our religion, whatever we give or do for others, we don’t show off,” said Ruweida.

“The giving comes from our hearts.” Hearts full of generosity!