Eid Mubarak!

Tomorrow is Eid, and as Ramadan draws to a close, it’s time for us to say thank you to everyone who has been working to help people celebrate despite the lockdown. The Muslim community is a huge part of Oxford life, and of Oxford Mutual Aid as well, and we hope everyone has a fantastic Eid. 

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, during which many Muslims observe a fast from sunrise to sunset. It is a time of reflection and prayer, but it is also very important to community life. Each night, people break their fast with a meal called an iftar, usually starting with dates.

The iftar is often a communal event, and during the evenings it’s common to see many people coming together to eat and celebrate. The last day of Ramadan is marked by Eid-ul Fitr, commonly known as Eid, and it is one of the two most important Islamic holidays.

In other words, Ramadan is a big deal. Like Christmas or Passover, it binds families and communities together. 

Ramadan 2020

It’s hard to celebrate as a community when you can’t leave the house. As soon as everyone began to realize how long lockdown would last, it was clear we would need to think creatively to help people observe Ramadan this year. 

There are many fantastic community groups in Oxford who have been doing just that, and we are very proud to have worked with them over the last month.They include the Oxford Homeless Project, Oxford Community Action, Syrian Sisters, Iraqi Women Art and War Community Group, Oxford Eid Extravaganza, and BAPs Oxford.

What Have We Been Doing?

Nabila Qureshi has been helping to lead our Ramadan projects at OMA, and she has been working with the Syrian Sisters, Oxford Community Action and the Oxford Homeless Project to ensure that people are supported as they can be during lockdown. A key focus has been making sure people have access to halal meals. 

Ramadan Homecook Programme

OMA been offering support to some of our most vulnerable Muslim families by providing them with home cooked meals made by OMA volunteers, with all meals being both Halal and nut-free. Volunteers cook for between 10-30 people one day a week and recipients receive food at least twice a week. OMA provides reheatable packaging and food supplies, and distributes between 150 – 200 meals a week. 

The Grand Iftar

Each year, the Muslim community in Oxford organizes a Grand Iftar. It is a hugely important event, and it was clear that organizing it during a pandemic was going to be challenging. 

This year, Oxford Mutual Aid worked together with the Oxford Homeless Project, Oxford Community Action, BAPs Oxford and Oxford City Council to prepare and distribute over 2,200 meals.

Doing this all safely involved a lot of careful planning. Logan Hamilton was the OMA project lead, and she mapped out a plan to transform the East Oxford Community Centre into a food preparation and distribution centre that would adhere to social distancing.

Around 300 of the meals went to the Porch and other homeless people in and around Oxford. The rest were distributed by a fleet of drivers that had to be timed with great precision. With over 500 stops to get through, it would not have been possible without these volunteer drivers giving up their entire day.

Eid Extravaganza 

OMA is again teaming up with a number of groups around Oxford to celebrate Eid. Working with Oxford Homeless Project, Oxford Eid Extravaganza, Populate, Oxfordshire Kindness Wave, Oxford Community Action, Oxford City Council, Iraqi Women Art and War, Dementia Oxfordshire and Nemesis, OMA will deliver Eid Treats to thousands of people around the city and county. 

These parcels are filled with sweets, cakes, baklavas, biscuits and much more, much of which has been kindly donated by local businesses. There will be over 650 stops this weekend, so we want to highlight the amazing work of our volunteer drivers again. 

What Next?

We are incredibly grateful to all the people and groups who have worked with us over Ramadan, and we know we will all be working together closely in the months to come. This is a strange and unsettled time, but we will get through it together. We are always looking for new volunteers and new partnerships, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch. 


OMA Delivers Meals to the Elderly

A big thanks to the Oxford Mail for covering our new pilot program to deliver meals to those living with dementia. The project is part of our Kitchen Collective and began last Friday.

We have partnered with Age UK and Dementia Oxfordshire to begin delivering meals to some of their clients. University College have very kindly allowed us to use their kitchen space, and volunteer chefs are making the meals.

Many thanks to all our partners and volunteers for making this happen.


One Month In

It’s been just under four weeks since Oxford Mutual Aid received its first donation. We want to thank everyone who has contributed. There have been many incredibly generous donations, and every pound has made a real difference.

We also want to thank Unite at OUP, the Oxford & District Trade Union Council, and Wadham College for their financial support, as well as Open Collective and the Social Change Agency for helping us raise funds on this platform.

Beyond money, we have received supplies and help from University College, Merton College, St. Anne’s College and are talking to many others about possible partnerships. 

What Have We Done?

Part of what we do is simply to connect volunteers with people who cannot leave the house and need to purchase supplies. However, there are many people in need who cannot afford to purchase food or necessary supplies, or who find themselves in need of more specialist help.

Our focus is finding the gaps in the existing aid infrastructure. We do not want to replicate existing services – where possible, we signpost those in need to the appropriate agency or organization. Still, there are more and more cases in which, if we do not provide aid ourselves, it will not be supplied at all.

We are lucky enough to have healthcare professionals and experienced case workers among our volunteers, and we have been working with relevant agencies and organizations to get help where it is needed.

We are now providing regular help to 119 households. In addition, we have:

  • Helped house 12 homeless people
  • Supported 18 new and expectant mothers 
  • Delivered food and supplies to over 200 vulnerable households
  • Made 2,100 food deliveries to NHS and care home staff, and other key workers

We will be launching new initiatives in the coming weeks. For our Ramadan outreach, we are purchasing and delivering Halal meat parcels to low income families. We are partnering with local community organisers Syrian Sisters to investigate the possibility of delivering hot meals to vulnerable households during Ramadan. 

We are also working with Oxford Homeless Movement to source food and other basic essentials for people who are homeless and precariously housed. This week alone we have sourced thousands of toiletries and sanitary items for homeless shelters to redistribute. 

In addition, we have set up Kitchen Collective – a project which will connect professional kitchens, suppliers, chefs, and at-risk groups in need of hot meals. We are presently launching our first collaboration, which involves supplying meals to Age UK clients, with the generous assistance of University College. We are also in discussion with several schools about providing meals to children who normally receive free school lunches. 

How Did We Spend Donations?

We have spent £2,782 so far. You can check each expense right here on Open Collective. We are being as frugal as possible, and we are only spending money when it is not possible to source supplies for free.

So far, all expenses have been for supplies, services, and accommodation for people in need, with the addition of petrol costs for delivery. In the next few days we will also purchase a few software tools – those we cannot source for free – to help us remain organized as we take on more work.

What Will the Next Few Months Look Like?

We will continue to build our capacity, and we will need to adapt as the situation changes. There has been much talk about when lockdown will end, and many are looking forward to getting out of the house by the summer. We don’t want to depress anyone, but we think it’s important to be realistic about the scale and the duration of this crisis.

It is unclear how the UK will transition out of lockdown. We might be facing periodic cycles of relaxation of quarantine measures followed by spikes in infection. Many people in OMA are worried about the coming winter and the effect Covid-19 will have on the annual winter crisis.

While it does not feature in the news as much, the knock-on effect of the pandemic on pre-existing aid efforts and government services is a crisis in of itself. Demand has gone up and capacity has gone down.

You have probably encountered this yourself or know someone who has. Lifelines that many of us count on have been cut off. Fewer social workers can make their rounds. Life-saving operations have been postponed indefinitely. Many charities have closed entirely. It is likely the situation will get worse before it gets better.

Lastly, we are anticipating the effects of a severe economic depression. Many of us, even those who consider themselves financially stable, are one payday away from serious financial difficulty. Widespread job loss will drastically increase the number of us who need help. Budget shortfalls will also reduce the amount of help local councils can provide.

What Will We Do About It?

We can hope for the best, but we need to prepare for the worst. We are currently working on the assumption that OMA will need to keep operating for some considerable time. We would love to be proved wrong, but it would be irresponsible not to start thinking beyond lockdown to the medium-term future.

We are now reviewing the systems that have evolved, rationalizing them, and role sorting. Our goal is to systematize as much as possible, especially as we are now partnering with many external organizations.

We are also building up capacity. Those of us who have specialized professional expertise are training up others. We are bringing in new volunteers and shifting workloads around so that no one person is indispensable.

Can I Get Involved?

Yes! If you have time to spare, please fill in our form or get in touch at Everyone is welcome, though we are particularly interested in anyone with the following skills:

  • Healthcare and mental health professionals
  • Healthcare and mental health students  
  • Experienced case workers
  • Tech workers or students
  • Accountants or anyone with practical bookkeeping experience
  • Lawyers or law students
  • Administrators and experienced organizers

If you don’t have these skills but still want to help, don’t worry. There’s plenty of work to do, and we could always use an extra pair of hands. Please be patient if we take a while to reply.

What is Mutual Aid? Where Did All These Groups Come From?

Mutual Aid is a theory of organizing, not a national organization. However, as you might expect, larger groups are reaching out to one another. We are sharing resources with several groups and hope to build these networks as time goes on.

Mutual Aid is about solidarity rather than charity. Many of those volunteering also receive support in one form or another. It can be hard to ask for help, especially if you have never had to do it before, but we encourage you to get in touch if you are struggling or if you are worried about a loved one.

That invitation stands regardless of who you are and what your circumstances might be. We know what happens when people begin to separate those who deserve help from those who do not. This is the beginning of what might be a very hard road; we all need to commit to protecting one another without exception.