One hot summer day in June, 7-year-old Muhammad Kazmi intently penned large letters onto a lime green poster board: “Lemonade for Fort McMurray.”
The idea of selling lemonade to raise money for the Fort McMurray wildfire relief effort was sparked weeks before while watching the news. Muhammad’s mother, Syeda Zehra, says, “He saw the burning homes on T.V. and said to me, ‘we should do something to help’.”
It took a few weekends before the weather was warm enough to warrant selling the refreshing drink, but Muhammad was eager to get to work. Syeda says, “he asked me every weekend, ‘Mom can we do the lemonade stand now?’” With the arrival of a blazing 30-degree day, vehicles and pedestrians flocked to Mohammad’s stand, eager to support the young philanthropist and the city of Fort McMurray.
Muhammad says ten other neighbourhood kids, most of whom he didn’t know, joined him in his efforts. When Syeda asked her son why he was so passionate about the project, his response was “because I have taken an oath at the Canadian Citizenship Ceremony and promised that I will serve the community.”
Muhammad took the oath in May of this year when the Kazmi family, originally from Pakistan, officially became Canadian citizens. Syeda is proud that her son is taking initiative by taking the oath seriously. “It is very important to have a sense of responsibility and not always think about ourselves,” she says. In three hours the neighbourhood lemonade stand raised a total of $216, which was donated to the Canadian Red Cross.
Syeda says Ramadan also influenced Muhammad to take action and help out the people of Fort McMurray. “Ramadan is a time to help the poor and focus on charity,” she says. Muhammad added, “In Canada, their doors are always open,” citing the 2013 floods as an example of the camaraderie and support citizens of Calgary show to one another.
Syeda wonders what our city and country would look like if we took seriously the oath recited during citizenship ceremonies, like Muhammad. She says, “It is a very big responsibility to serve our communities, and I’m very happy he is thinking of others.”