I recently fasted for two days during Ramadan, to show support for colleagues in the Liaison and Diversion team and across Touchstone, and to raise money for Touchstone’s food project. This was a daunting challenge for me. Getting up at 3:15am to have breakfast, then back to bed for a few hours before getting up and working from home all day, without the distractions of ‘normal life.’ Abstaining from food and drink was challenging enough, but no gossip or swearing was also no mean feat. We’d originally planned the fast as a team effort, but with lockdown we decided to wait until next year when we could be together for Iftar – the meal at sunset when the fast is broken. That said, I felt it was important to honour my commitment to my colleague Tanya and complete two days of fasting; in truth, it’s always something I’ve wanted to do.

Many years ago, before I worked in the charity sector, I taught English as a foreign language. I met a colleague who’d been teaching children in a school in Bosnia after the Yugoslavian War, and had observed Ramadan with his students. Fascinated by this idea I asked him what it was like. He told me: “I recommend that everyone do this at least once in their life, it makes you realise that you can’t have whatever you want whenever you want, and that changes how you think and makes you grateful.” And that is exactly what it did. Waking up with a dry throat and knowing I couldn’t quench my thirst until 8:47pm makes me grateful for each glass of water and cup of tea I’ve had since, and there have been many! I learnt that I am lucky in innumerable ways, and that the fast does as much for the mind as it does for the body. The most special thing about my two days of Ramadan was the support and encouragement I received from colleagues, several of whom sent me emails of encouragement with advice for managing the thirst and hunger. Most special of all was the delicious food delivered by my colleague Tanya for my first Iftar. Eating Bengali food prepared that day and shared with me by people who appreciated what I was doing was a truly wonderful experience.

Thanks to generous colleagues, friends and family who supported me, I’ve now raised £155 for Touchstone’s Food Project and am still collecting. People have also made donations to their local Foodbanks to show their support. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their kindness, in particular Tanya Salam-Pir for her encouragement and generosity. I’d like to finish this post with some words from Tanya.

Ramadan is a time to work on your self-discipline and reflect on your own life. As well as be appreciative of everything you have around you. Having Ramadan during lockdown has been brilliant as it means you get to spend more time with your family. Sharing this experience with Sophie was amazing, as Sophie was able to understand the meanings of Ramadan and how there’s much more to it than no food or drink! I hope next year I can get the whole office to fast so that we can all go out for Iftar together and share the experience as one whole team!

By Sophie Hailwood – Liaison and Diversion Operations Manager