LSE & SOAS Students campaigning to raise funds in Ramadan

London: A group of big-hearted students from the London School of Economics (LSE) and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) who raised £72,000 for charity in just ten days last year have launched a nationwide campaign to raise many more funds this Ramadan. 

The Islamic Relief Ramadan £1 Challenge was first launched last year by the students, who wanted to fundraise during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Their idea was simple but innovative – encouraging people to text to give a pound and then nominate two friends to do the same, creating a fast-growing pyramid of donations.

“We wanted to use our free time productively to make a difference, and because the last ten days are the most special in Ramadan, we thought we would do the campaign then,” says 22-year-old Riz Nasrullah, a Londoner who is studying  Maths and Economics. “We also wanted to demonstrate the fact that British Muslims are extremely generous.”

Last year they raised £72,000 in just ten days for Islamic Relief, the UK’s largest Muslim charity. The money raised was matched by Islamic Relief and a total of £144,000 went towards rebuilding 40 orphan homes in Gaza.

This year their target is to raise £300,000 over the 30 days of Ramadan.  The £1 Challenge was the first time Islamic Relief’s student supporters had raised funds in such a manner – harnessing social media and the power of nomination to make an online and viral fundraising campaign. “We were very surprised it took off the way it did,” says Riz. “We were expecting to raise about £1,000!”

The £1 Challenge was born when the students approached Islamic Relief mid-Ramadan in 2015 with their idea: to mobilise people to donate just £1 and then nominate two friends to do the same.

The students chose social media platforms to fundraise after being inspired by the popular viral campaign the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and linked in with their various student networks to push the campaign forward.

This year money raised will provide shelter for vulnerable children in Gaza who have no adequate caregivers and are subject to child labour and even sexual abuse.

“The shelter will provide a safe haven with food, clothing, education, health care and psycho social needs provided,” explains Islamic Relief’s National Events and Challenges Coordinator, Sadia Sajid.

Riz and his friends are happy that they are making a difference not only in raising awareness here at home but in the lives of vulnerable children. “We feel honoured that the money is making a difference and we did it all through social media. Just £1 can really make a difference.”

Sadia is encouraged by the enthusiasm of the charity’s young supporters: “Islamic Relief has always welcomed new and innovative ideas from our volunteers and supporters, and in the past this has proven to be highly successful with the phenomenal Cakes4Syria and Charity Week campaigns that have raised millions for people in need in Syria and children around the world,” she says.

Such campaigns have been inspired by young people. “When the students came to us last year mid Ramadan, despite being extremely busy in the midst of our campaign, we were happy to embrace the initiative and support them,” says Sadia. “We were very encouraged to see it take off across the country in the way that it did.

“The Ramadan £1 Campaign is a testament to Generation Z that they have been able to come up with something so innovative that harnesses the power of social media and mass mobilisation yet is simple enough for people of all ages to buy into.”

Islamic Relief’s wider Ramadan campaign encourages donors to “gather the rewards of Ramadan” by giving generously in a month when Muslims believe good deeds can be multiplied more than 700 times. The aim is to raise over £11 million to save and transform lives around the world. The campaign heavily features the word ‘SubhanAllah’ meaning ‘Glory to God’ and will feature on more than 500 buses in Bradford, Manchester, Birmingham, London and Leicester from 20 June.