Iftar  for Children at Iyilikhane, Istanbul, May 26, 2019 / Ramadan 21, 1440

I think we've just had the craziest day of Ramadan. For the fourth time, we gathered with nearly 400 children, their parents, and volunteers for our children's iftar, which has become a tradition at Iyilikhane.

Our preparations began one month before Ramadan started; in order to find a suitable iftar and festival area that is safe, spacious, and not too far away from the children, we asked many people, researched, and finally decided on a facility in Merter. We considered our previous three iftar experiences and devised a plan of action. How many/which children and families will attend the iftar, how many volunteers should participate, how to organise shuttles for transportation, what games do we play, rope, ball, loudspeaker; we went through a long list of what we needed one by one. We were so excited about iftar that we asked each other about it in our dreams. :) Finally, the day has come to answer those sweet questions that we have been hearing for a year:

- Will we have iftar together again, sister?

- Last year, you had an iftar with my friends. I heard that was fantastic! Will you take us with you this year?

- Guys, we're getting together for iftar on Sunday, May 26. Please arrive at the service area at 17.00 with your families! Don't be late, so we'll have plenty of time to play, okay?

We rolled up our sleeves early on the iftar day to finish the final preparations. Four of our volunteers carried and set up the playground tents, each weighing 200 kg. Our volunteers decorated the event area and dining area with balloons, and painting, face painting, and play dough tables were set up. Memory boards were hung, chairs were arranged in rows for the musical chairs game, and balls were inflated. When the preparations were finished, our guests arrived at the event site via shuttles. The games have started! The energy of the Fraternity Project brought the entire group together and everyone mingled within seconds. The enthusiasm of our over 200 orphan and/or refugee children, along with our 70 volunteers, was truly admirable.

One of our children, Lamia (10 y/o), learned how to jump rope at the festival and even set a record. "Sister, do you know that I learned to jump rope today, it's so funnn!" she exclaimed to other volunteer sisters she had just met. And at the end of the day, she sat at the iftar table, with a tired but sweet smile on her face. Another child, Ahmet (11 y/o), who also has recently learned to jump rope, was jumping and spinning around as people cheered for him.

The face painting crew was also having fun. It was priceless to see the huge smiles of the children, when they see themselves in the mirror... Some of our kids were embarrassed to show childish behavior because they thought they were "all grown up" now. They felt relieved when they noticed that even the older sisters had painted their faces to join them.  For those who are proud of their childhood, washing their faces and going back to their older sister and brother and saying "let's paint again!" was fun on a different level, regardless of how much they liked the colourful patterns. What colour can capture the joy of drawing beautiful flowers and brave lions on children’s cheeks?

The mischievous kids walking in a sitting position during the musical chairs game, the little ones (3-5 y/o) who try to join the dodgeball of the older ones, the volunteers trying to protect them from the ball, the children who drew beautiful pictures and gifted them to the volunteers...

When a little girl finds and recognises his older sister among dozens of staff, she runs and hugs her, and expresses how happy she is to see her again. And, a little boy remembers a volunteer brother and says “I know you from a long time ago!”. Maybe they met only once at an Eid event, or at the amusement park a month ago, or just played together at the iftar a year ago. And some children say, "I want to volunteer at Iyilikhane when I grow up"... :') How wonderful that each activity leaves such lasting and beautiful imprints on children's memories! Then there were the thankful eyes of the mothers who watch their children's happiness on the lawn while we played with the kids, and that light on their faces was also unforgettable... Given all of this, iftar has evolved from a "meal" to a fraternity table full of barakah, prayers and love, where bridges between hearts are built. And we gathered around that table with the call to prayer: “Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!”

At the end of the day, we collected and cleaned the iftar area we used, and shuttled all of our children back to their homes. We would like to thank all of our wonderful volunteers and donors for their hard work and perseverance. We believe that they will be rewarded for their efforts. May our Lord have mercy on each of them as they have shown mercy, and may He be pleased with their efforts and grant them the opportunity to be with the Prophet (as in “two fingers side by side”, as stated in the hadith).