By Gabrielle Julien
Peace Initiatives Canada, an important social partner in the Quartier de l’Innovation, is a community organization that provides help to many residents of Little Burgundy, a low-income area with pronounced disparities. We met its founder, Musabbir Alam, an imam working at the Imani Community Centre, who has a great desire to make a difference in his community.
Musabbir Alam, founder and director of Peace Initiatives, came up with the idea of creating the non-profit organization to promote peace in society during his pilgrimage in 2015.
Feeding yourself in a dignified way
That’s how Fatimah’s Community Fridge came about. Named in honour of a former homeless woman who generously contributed to building the Little Burgundy community, the fridge is located outside, at the corner of Saint-Jacques and Des Seigneurs, and is open all day, every day. It’s a self-service refrigerator where all are invited to come and help themselves. “We have several regular donors who prepare food at home and bring bags of groceries. People who come for the food also have the option of heating up their dishes directly at the Little Burgundy Café-Market and sitting down and eating like paying customers, in a dignified manner. That’s what makes the difference.”
Photo taken from Facebook. The Peace Initiatives community fridge, located in front of Café-Marché Petite-Bourgogne on Saint-Jacques Street.
Uniting communities for tangible results
Peace Initiatives also works in close collaboration with Saint George’s Anglican Church to carry out joint projects. “Saint George’s Church had a well-organized food donation system and we had a strong desire to reach out to people in need, to build a relationship with them and to listen to them.” They therefore work together to feed the neighbourhood’s homeless. The message sent out on the street was very powerful. “Seeing myself, an imam, walking alongside Reverend Steven surprised many, who stopped to point it out to us.” To Musabbir Alam, building connections between communities is worth more than simply feeding them. “There are as many benefits to being listened to as there are to going to sleep on a full stomach. People don’t feel as neglected.”
Photo taken from Facebook. The members of the interfaith association feed and meet homeless people on the street.
Peace Initiatives has other projects, such as those addressing environmental issues, welcoming immigrants, women’s inclusion and youth mobilization thanks to the Peace League, an intercultural sports league that mobilizes youth by encouraging them to be active as well as to reach out to others.
Benefits for all
As of the first Peace Initiatives activities, community residents in need began noticing results. Several expressed how they felt more accepted thanks to activities put together by the organization, in addition to being listened to, fed and mobilized. Musabbir Alam explains that helpers reap just as many benefits. “As helpers, we also change, thanks to this open mindedness and vision of ‘us’ that takes shape rather than that of ‘myself and the other.’”
Photo taken from Facebook. Caregivers prepare food that will be redistributed.
Peace Initiatives was created by a religious community, but it goes far beyond that and tackles problems the Montréal community faces, regardless of faith. With the holidays just around the corner, the organization’s actions perfectly fit in with the spirit of taking care of others and giving back.