Ulfat Jalalhuddin & Eram Butt
Executive Board Committee,
The Islamic Society of Kingston
Ulfat Jalalhuddin and Eram Butt have shared a lot as volunteers in the Kingston community. While coming from Pakistan to Canada at different times in their lives, their active roles as volunteers have allowed their paths to meaningfully cross. Ulfat has been living in Canada since 1978. Prior to living in Kingston, she also lived in Montreal, Quebec. Eram lived in the United States before she moved to Kingston in 2011. Both women enjoy the strong sense of community that Kingston has to offer.
Shortly after Ulfat arrived in Kingston, she was involved in the fundraising initiatives toward building a mosque in Kingston. In 1985, the hopes and dreams of building a mosque in Kingston became a reality. Since then, the Islamic Society of Kingston (ISK) has been a prime focal point in bringing the Muslim community together. The successful operations of the ISK have been attributed to the exceptional support from the volunteers who dedicate their time to organize and run various programs and events. Ulfat and Eram have been assets in ensuring the smooth operation and continuance of such programs and events. Ulfat has assumed a number of ISK Executive Board Committee roles. The majority of her roles have been centered on the ISK's maintenance and expansion. She served as a Fundraising Committee Coordinator for 6 years and has been involved in several successful fundraising events. With the ISK's current plans to expand, she has also been involved as an Extension Committee member for 3 years. Eram has been involved in the ISK Social Committee it which she helps to plan and prepare for social events at the ISK. She is also involved in youth programs at the ISK such as the ISK STRIVE program for youth, a bi-weekly program for youth ages 13 and above. In addition to keeping the Muslim community engaged, the ISK’s influence has extended into the greater Kingston community. Annual events such as the Multicultural Bazaar and the Open House welcome people of all faiths and backgrounds. Ulfat and Eram take and active role in making those events successful.
Both women have been involved in the Shared Journey Project (SJP) since 2013. The SJP is a collaborative initiative that is run between the Family and Children's Services of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (FACSFLA), KCHC- Kingston Immigration Partnership (KCHC-KIP), and ISK. All three organizations work together to help FACSFLA staff enhance the work they do with their clients.
The SJP was developed in London, Ontario where the Islamic community recognized a need for Family Service Workers to better understand the role of culture in a wide range of family dynamics and circumstances. People from various cultural backgrounds in Kingston who require assistance are referred to either KCHC-KIP or the ISK in order to bridge a gap in information regarding a client’s culture. By bridging this gap, the FACSFLA staff can offer culturally sensitive programs and services. Ulfat and Eram have been instrumental in providing education and assistance to FACSFLA staff who have cases of Muslim families requiring assistance. As Ulfat notes: "It's about helping people in need. It's a different need but it is a need which is important. It's a need we should be aware of and have our community or any community involved.
Both women enjoy being a part of the Kingston community through their volunteer roles. One of the major highlights or their community involvement was receiving training in London for the SJP. The informative sessions gave the attendees the opportunity to learn more while establishing stronger connections. Eram and Ulfat have expressed a sincere joy in being part of the ISK's Annual Bazaar. Its vibrant and welcoming atmosphere presents a vivid picture of Kingston's friendly communitiy.
In addition to getting to know the Kingston community better, Ulfat’s and Eram’s community involvement has encouraged the Kingston community to gather a stronger impression of the Muslim community. As Eram notes: “as Muslims we should be actively seen and actively involved in the community of Kingston. So any assumptions can get cleared.” A sense of mutual understanding strengthens community bonds.
Both women are grateful for the overwhelming support they received from the community and through other ethno-cultural communities when the ISK was vandalized in 2014. Since the Kingston community is strongly connected to the members of the ISK, they empathized and provided a great deal of support to the Muslim community. Ulfat describes the Kingston community as “culturally based. It’s one community.” Both strongly encourage Kingston newcomers to volunteer. Eram’s advice is as follows: “when you move to a new community, it’s not about what you can take; it’s about what you can give.”