Students make “quick” friends at Louise Arbor School’s Ramadan Club in London, Ontario.

There is a new noon club at Louise Arbor French Immersion Elementary School in North London, Southwestern Ontario.

But in this club, students don’t work to hone their skills in chess, calligraphy, or computer coding.

This spring, the school launched its first Ramadan club, timed to coincide with the Muslim holy month, which began last weekend.

The new club, which has 15 student members, helps provide a safe space for those who choose to fast during Ramadan, a place where they won’t be tempted by the food other students bring to school and eat at school. lunch time.

The club is overseen by Danya Atta, a 2nd grade teacher who saw the need to provide a safe space for Muslim students, especially when their classmates were eating.

“The Ramadan club started as an answer to a question,” said Atta, a practicing Muslim. “How can we support students who commit to fasting all day, especially during meal times in their classroom when they are surrounded by their eating friends? We try to support them by removing this temptation.”

Teacher Danya Atta, who leads the Ramadan club at Louise Arbor Elementary School, says many students find it easier to stick to their fast if they aren’t tempted by other students’ food at school time. lunch. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

Part of the purpose of fasting during the holy month is to sharpen Muslims’ focus on spirituality rather than worldly concerns, such as food, Atta said.

“We put those things aside as a way to remember God and to remember to do things to please God, to be kind to others, to help those in need, and to become a better person overall,” she said.

Fasting isn’t easy, and for many Muslims, that’s part of the reason they do it. When writing about their fast, many Muslims speak of the clarity it gives them and a reordering of priorities in their daily lives. Most Muslims will not consume food, or even drink water, during the day during the 30-day holy month.

“It takes a lot of self-discipline,” Atta said. “But the body recovers and the strength an individual gets while fasting is remarkable.”

Workbooks, art projects

Not all Muslim families fast, and not all who do choose to abstain from all food and drink from sunrise to sunset. Atta said some families invite their children there with a half-day fast until they feel ready to go the whole day without food or drink.

The Ramadan Club provides a space where the sacrifice that comes with fasting is understood, and children can be supported in their choices and freed from the temptations of other students’ lunches.

The club does not follow any established program. There are Ramadan workbooks and art projects. Some members choose to relax or do other schoolwork while at the club, and Atta is available to answer any questions students have about Ramadan.

A sign welcomes members of the Ramadan Club at Louise Arbor French Immersion Public School. The club was formed in part to provide a food-free space for students who choose to fast during the Muslim holy month. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

Wael El-Amari is a 7th grade student of Moroccan origin. He fasts all month and is a big fan of the Ramadan club.

“It helps me represent Ramadan and my religion,” he said.

El-Amari admitted daytime fasting is not easy, but he wants to do it. He also said it got easier over time.

“At first it feels like you’re suffocating, starving, but then you get used to it,” he said. “Then it becomes nothing.”

Grade 7 Ramadan Club member Rayann Kiddo enjoys the camaraderie of being with other Muslim students participating in the fast.

“It helps because there are a lot of other people here fasting with you,” she said. “It encourages you not to break your fast.”

Nidal Mohammed’s parents are from Sudan. She is an enthusiastic member of the club and its members’ commitment to fasting: “It motivates me.”

The club will meet daily for the rest of Ramada and culminate in a celebration of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month.

“We will celebrate with food, decorations, music and laughter,” Atta said. “Eid is the celebration of the sacrifices that have been made over the past 30 days. It is a time to rejoice with families and friends. I hope it will motivate them to know that they have a celebration Eid to look forward to.”