With less than three weeks to go to finish up on logistics for a historical trip, Al-Waagah Islamic Institute for the Deaf, says things are smoothly falling into place, as they prepare more than 50 deaf people for Umrah (pilgrimage).
The local organisation, will, for the first time in its history, embark on such a huge task of taking on the responsibility of a group of deaf elderly men and women.
Cassiem De Wet, chairperson for Al-Waagah says, excitement is cumulating as the time draws closer, and the public have been exceptionally kind in showing their support since the announcement of the trip late last year.
About 117 people will embark on this trip. They include 58 deaf people, volunteers, staff and extra members of the public who have requested to join the group on the spiritual journey, explains De Wet.
“There were a few ‘late comers’ who joined the group, who include more deaf seniors from both Cape Town and Johannesburg.”
“It is putting a lot of pressure on the team with more people joining. It is a large project for us to take on, but how does one say no to them? It is exciting for them as much as it is for us” said De Wet during a TV interview on The Faizal Sayed Show who is a project partner.
Cassiem says his team is working hard to ensure the trip is a safe and memorable one for the group who will be experiencing the spiritual journey for the first time.
“These deaf men and women are a huge responsibility, and we need to ensure that safety and coordination is in place at all times.
“We allocated three deaf persons to every volunteer. The volunteers will need to monitor and stay with them (deaf travelers) at all times, this will include taking them for shopping in the holy city of Mecca.
“The group of travelers will also be wearing Al-Waagah branded jackets for people to identify who they are in a case of an emergency. The more organised our team is over there, the better we will get at things.”
He says the group is backed up by Khidmatul Awaam Pilgrim Services were logistical arrangements is concerned.
“Khidmatul Awaam have previously taken large groups on Umrah, including people with all kinds of disabilities. We trust that they will know how to manage this group as well.
“We are over prepared and have enough volunteers for this exciting journey. In fact, people are still coming forward to offer their assistance.”
Organisations who have come on board to support the project include Deen Channel, The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), Radio 786, as well as Khidmatul Awaam.
Fadiyah Harris, who deals with the administration at Al-Waagah adds, it’s the kindness of the public that brings tears to her eyes.
“To have this kind of support at this huge scale, with huge amounts being sponsored towards the deaf, is an emotional feeling. We are extremely grateful for each and every donor of this project.
“We looked at many avenues to get things in order and Alhamdulillah we have been fortunate enough, with the donor’s even collecting and sponsoring toiletry packs and ihraams for the deaf,” adds Harris.
Although the group of deaf travelers is unable to hear the beautiful recitals in Mecca, the exciting journey of being given the opportunity to see the holy precincts will forever be remembered. The group will depart from Cape Town on Saturday 2 February and will return on Friday 18 February. The popular Talk Show, The Faizal Sayed Show broadcast on Deen Channel and DSTV’s Channel 263 will be on the journey with host Faizal Sayed addressing South Africans from Saudi Arabia through a live link up on Radio 786.
An official send-off programme for the deaf will take place on Sunday 27 January between 10:00 and 12:00 at the International Peace College of South Africa (IPSA) in Rylands.
Family and friends of the deaf will be given the opportunity to meet the rest of the group on the day.
Meanwhile, the organisation confirmed that funds are still needed to cover the cost of food for the group over a period of two weeks. The public is urged to assist in this regard. To donate towards the project, call Al-Waagah Islamic Institute for the Deaf directly on 021 638 3368, 073 386 8887 or 074 579 7266 (Deen Times)