Dr. Asile El-Darahali

Halifax, NS

Sharing Food and Raising Spirits

When Dr. Asile El-Darahali’s parents moved their family to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia from Kuwait in 1992, they knew very little English and didn’t know anyone or anything about their new home.

Dr. El-Darahali, now a practicing family dentist in Bedford, N.S. recalls many people helping her family adjust to their new life. The El-Darahalis struggled with translation and relied on language services and many other local organizations to help them navigate new health care and education systems, and necessary living amenities such as grocery stores and pharmacies.

Dr. El-Darahali credits her mother for instilling charitable values in her life from a young age, but believes the people who helped her family over 25 years ago made a lasting impact. That kindness has inspired her to help individuals and families across Nova Scotia through initiatives like Share the Spirit of Ramadan Food Drive.

“I’m who I am today because of the Halifax community and the people who welcomed my family and I when we had very little,” says Dr. El-Darahali. “I want to give back to the community and people who helped us by being there for families like mine.”

Feeding a community

Three years ago, Dr. Asile El-Darahali and her sister, Dr. Asraa El-Darahali, who is also a dentist, heard about the Share the Spirit of Ramadan Food Drive through their Muslim community. Dr. Asile El-Darahali gives her sister all the credit when it comes to the organization and planning of the project, modestly admitting she was just happy to be part of it.

“We had heard that a Mosque in Ontario had done it successfully and we both just knew the Muslim community here would be so excited and supportive in bringing it to Halifax.”

The food drive takes place during the month of Ramadan where Muslims fast from dawn until dusk, abstaining from water and food. That, coupled with the fact that there is a great need for accessible food across the province convinced Dr. Darahali that the food drive would be the perfect opportunity to give back to the broader community.

“While we fast, we get a glimpse of what it would be like to go without food and endure hunger,” she said.

“We wanted to help individuals and families who live in our community and suffer from hunger in any way that we could.”

Proceeds from the Share the Spirit of Ramadan Food Drive are received by Feed Nova Scotia as well as many other small, local community charities that are in need of food and assistance such as the Phoenix Youth Program, Bayers Westwood Family Resource Centre and Parker Street Food and Furniture Bank.

“Feed Nova Scotia is very fortunate to have close to 600 registered food drives and fundraisers organized on our behalf each year by groups and individuals in the community,” says Karen Theriault, Director of Development and Communications at Feed Nova Scotia.

“The Share the Spirit of Ramadan Food Drive is a registered food drive that we’ve had the pleasure of working with for the past two years. During that time the food drive has donated close to 5,000 kg of food to Feed Nova Scotia and as a result, a great deal of individuals and families across the province were fed.”

This year, the food drive will be held on Sunday, June 18 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Mic Mac Mall in Dartmouth, N.S. Donations are also accepted through a GoFundMe page.

Just do it

Time and opportunity are two virtues Dr. El-Darahali does not like to waste. Her motto is simply, “I have the time to do it; I’m just going to do it.”

While not wanting one opportunity to help someone pass her by, the realist in Dr. El-Darahali knows she can’t reach everyone. Nevertheless, the eternal optimist in her knows that even helping one person can have a lasting impact, and that opportunities to make a difference come in many different forms.

“We all take what we have for granted,” says Dr. El-Darahali. “There are a lot of people right here in Halifax who are in need of help – individuals and parents who are in need of food to keep their families growing strong and healthy.”

In 2016 the food drive raised over $10,000. In addition to beating last year’s funds raised, Dr. El-Darahali would like to spend more time helping people understand the importance of hunger in Nova Scotia – a topic she cares deeply about.

“Besides donations, I’d like to see our project increase awareness of what others go through every day. Help people work together, understand where they can donate, volunteer and contribute.”

A small action can go a long way

As a dentist and health care practitioner, Dr. El-Darahali is passionate about providing education on the importance of overall wellness. She believes this starts with making wholesome, nutritious food accessible so that everyone can have a chance at living healthier lives.

“If you don’t have enough food to eat, or you’re not eating the nutritious food you need to function, it not only affects your oral health but it impacts how you live every day,” says Dr. El-Darahali.

Dr. El-Darahali would like to see children specifically benefit from the food drive, stating that different types of food, not just canned goods are needed to help children focus and perform better in school.

“If we can help educate the public and improve the kind of food we are getting to hungry Nova Scotians, our families and communities can be better, stronger and happier.”

Dr. El-Darahali admits it may be cheesy, but her goal every day is to make someone smile. Whether she’s helping a patient in her dental chair or out volunteering in her community, she’s always looking for a way to contribute.

“When I see someone smile, I smile,” says Dr. El Darahali.

“Our community isn’t going to grow or get stronger by itself and I want to help it get there. There’s so many ways to get involved. You’d be surprised how a basic, small action can do amazing things for someone else.”

Feed Nova Scotia is a registered charitable organization. Their mission is to feed Nova Scotians in need and reduce that need. One way they work to achieve this is by distributing close to 2 million kilograms of donated food each year to their member network of 146 food banks, shelters, soup kitchens and other meal programs across the province. All the food donated to Feed Nova Scotia is distributed among a network of member agencies so they can support families and individuals. Their role extends beyond food. They support member agencies as they build capacity to serve their communities, and they help raise awareness of the challenges hunger and poverty create each day for thousands of Nova Scotians.