The project started in the fall of 2012, when my university roommate told me that his church had asked him to organize a group of students to cook a big meal for the local homeless shelter: Ray of Hope. (Ray of Hope is a nonprofit organization that provides a free warm meal everyday to those struggling with homelessness and addiction). I instantly loved the idea and didn't think twice. I had been looking for a place to volunteer at and this had come right to me. We were able to get a good group of our university friends (about 10- 15) who lived in the same residential area to join. We all loved the experience so much that Ian, my roommate, committed us to cooking and serving a meal every month for the rest of the term.
To buy the ingredients, we would initially ask the volunteers, friends and family to chip in $10 if they could. However, this method proved to be unsustainable in the long run. A year ago, I spoke to Ian about creating something that we could sell to fund the project. After thinking and researching, selling T-shirts made the most sense. The twist was that I wanted the person buying the shirt to know exactly how they were contributing to the cause. So, after doing the math, we learned that from one shirt, we could serve five full meals. Soon after, the name feedfive came naturally and we started our journey of designing the shirts, finding the right supplier, and creating our website. After we started selling the t-shirts, we didn't have to worry about getting enough money for the ingredients anymore. The sales funded the project completely.
In my experience, doing this type of volunteer work has been very eye opening. It really puts everything into perspective. As university students, we tend to live in our own little bubble, with little to no interaction with the real world. Especially as an Egyptian coming from the mid to high social class, it's very easy to just get wrapped up in my own world. Going out there, seeing real people in real need, and trying to help them allows me to be aware of what's really going on in the streets of my city. It also gives me the confidence that I can a make difference, however big or small.
This depends on the month; sometimes we have one scheduled meal and sometimes we have two. In one meal, we are able to feed 200-300 people at a time. So if we serve two meals, we are able to feed 400-600 in a month.
Coming up with the t-shirt design took us much longer than coming up with the idea and the project's name. We originally wanted a design that explained what the t-shirt does i.e. the shirt provides five meals to five hungry people. However, we realized that most people wouldn't want to explicitly brag about something like that. It needed to be much more subtle. So we started to think in a much simpler way. I started asking myself 'What's the simplest thing that would universally represent a meal without using any text?' Eventually, the clear winner was the fork and the knife symbol. We decided to make it our own by eliminating the knife and adding a fifth tooth to the fork, as a symbol to the five meals that we were serving per t-shirt.
Our goal is to engage the larger community with our cause and get everyone involved in whatever capacity they wish to be involved at, whether it's by buying a shirt/donating five meals or by volunteering their time and giving back to their local community. We are hoping to partner with other similar charities around Canada and maybe someday in different countries.
I'm definitely hoping to be able to expand outside of Canada and be able to reach different countries struggling with hunger issues. I think I still need to explore every component of this project to learn what works and what doesn't. Once I'm confident in being able to replicate it and bring it to a different location, Egypt will be at the top of my list.
I think there are a lot of people in Egypt who want to help and want to give back but don't know where to go to do that. There needs to be more organizations that provide a platform for regular people to give their time and energy to. This way we can channel all that potential help to the right people who need it. The concept of 'volunteering' may not be super familiar to Egyptians yet but I know for a fact that Egyptians are empathetic individuals who would be willing to lend a helping hand when asked.
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