Local organization continues to provide free food to in-need residents
Local community group International Cultural Integration Organization distributed food to many in-need Parc-Extension residents last Friday, at Parc Metro station.
Volunteers with the organization helped distribute portions of samosas, a South Asian savoury baked pastry, bottled water, energy bars and beverages to in-need residents on Easter Friday.
Over 300 pre-prepared Samosas were given out for free to any resident in need of a prepared meal. The charitable donations are meant for residents in need of food, but the organization does not make eligibility checks work instead on an honesty system.
The organization also distributed masks, socks and other necessary cold-weather articles, like gloves and hats.
Good Friday food distribution
Food distributed by the organization is sourced privately from restaurants in the area. This week samosas were prepared by Sana Halal Restaurant on Jarry and were provided at a discounted rate.
“Today was a pleasant day as large numbers of people came,” said Organization President Mahmood Raza Baig of the Easter Friday food distribution drive. “May God enhances our services more as food prices go up and fixed low-income people are facing a tough time,” added Baig.
“We are so thankful to Sasha Dyck, Richard Janda, Mr. George, Khorshed Alam for their contributions,” added Baig, underscoring that they can only provide services thanks to private donations.
The group was joined by two police officers from Poste de quartier 33 who aided in the distribution of meals boxes.
Offering services to the community
Founded in 2006, the organization is headed by Mahmood Raza Baig along with several other volunteers. It centers its mission around anti-poverty work and human rights efforts in the Park Extension neighbourhood.
The organization works to help in-need Park Extension residents, such as refugee claimants, low-income seniors and women who are victims of domestic abuse.
Among other community efforts, International Cultural Integration Organization is “committed to feeding the homeless and needy every week,” according to its mission statement.
In addition to providing food, the group works to offer other services to residents who may need aid. This includes education workshops for refugees, professional development programs for women and the distribution of masks since the start of the pandemic.
Funded through donations
The project has so far been entirely community funded, through personal contributions and public donations. “It was so difficult because generally, I have some money from my pocket,” said Baig about the difficulty of funding the services.
“I have some friends, and thank God I’m very well respected in the area,” stated Baig, adding that this has helped him pursue his efforts in the community.
Baig has faced many difficulties in running the project since its start of the project in early 2020. “It’s very difficult to get funds,” said Baig, adding that he feels disparity in funding is often based on race. “We face definitely some political hindrance,” said Baig.
Looking for a venue
Although Baig plans to keep distributing meals and grow the operations of the organization, he also wishes he could get more aid and funding for his efforts.
The group currently works with local organizations to prepare food from scratch in shared kitchens, but Baig wants to expand the organization to run their own kitchen and accommodate people in a dining hall.
“Right now we are also sort of looking at our own place,” said Baig, but added that rent prices for such a project were too expensive.
“$2,000 to $3,000 a month,” said Baig about the rent he would have to pay for his own space, adding that it would be “a big headache for me.”
Working with compassion
Baig hopes the group can grow its efforts to better serve those in Park Extension. “I want to treat people properly in proper room and proper place, they can sit and eat and go,” said Baig of an eventual community kitchen location.
Regardless of the organizational and financial hardships organizations like Baig’s face, he says he will keep doing the work he has done for the past 16 years.
“There is a purpose of our activity on humanitarian and compassionate grounds,” related Baig, adding that the long hours spent distributing food outside during the winter months were nonetheless worth it.
“To do something for good reason, you’re supposed to have a determination,” concluded Baig.