Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Chefs, Restaurants Help Survivors of London Fire | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Food is served from an outdoor kitchen set up for those made homeless by the massive fire in Grenfell Tower in London. (AP)

London – Many residents of London’s Grenfell Tower may have survived the blaze that destroyed their homes on Thursday, but they have not escaped homelessness and hunger in the holy month of Ramadan, especially since 80 percent of the residents are Muslims from different Arab nationalities.

Many volunteers have since come to their aid.

Restaurants in London rushed to help the survivors, who found themselves without a home or food. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver used his account on Twitter to invite all the survivors to head to one of his restaurants, “Jamie’s Italian”, in Westfield near the Grenfell Tower where they received free food.

Simon Cowell, who produces shows such as “Britain’s Got Talent” and the “X-Factor,” contacted renowned artists like Adele to record a song and dedicate its profits to people who survived the fire.

London’s Chopstix restaurant chain has since the eruption of the fire provided hot meals for survivors in their gathering spots in the center of the capital. Italian restaurant “Cucina” announced that all profits it makes on June 19 will go to the survivors.

Volunteers came from all across Britain to offer help. Some organized campaigns on social media to urge London’s citizens to donate clothes, while others sought to help them find lodgings.

Among the volunteers was Moroccan businesswoman Jalila al-Mastuki, who launched a campaign to donate food and organize iftar meals for Muslim and non-Muslim survivors alike.

She told Asharq Al-Awsat: “I rushed to help people who survived the fire in London because most of them are Arabs and Moroccans. I had to do something.”

“I launched a campaign on Facebook and asked my friends to help in providing food. Things were complicated on the first day because the municipality was not responsive and it relied on Red Cross relief. However, I managed to convince officials that it was important to serve hot meals and halal meat for Muslims, along with the iftar meal for the fast observers. Two days later, I received the municipality’s approval.”

Mastuki said she launched a similar campaign after devastating floods hit southern Morocco. She organized three fundraising campaigns on social media and collected a lot of funds that allowed her to build more than five residents for the displaced.

Asharq Al-Awsat also contacted Moroccan chef Khalid Dahabi, who served food in the campaign.

He said: “The scene was very painful. Seeing the building burning on TV is totally different than seeing it live. We had to do something to help those poor people. I helped Jalila al-Mastuki by cooking healthy and hot food for survivors.”

Dahbai explained that the process was complicated in the beginning because the municipality did not want to appear as if it was not providing enough support.

The Moroccan chef shared his call for help through the daily “Evening Standard,” saying: “I had to give something. Everyone donated clothes, but as a chef, I contributed in serving healthy food for people who need help.”