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The GDS Fast-a-thon: how our Muslim community shared Ramadan

A banana and glass of water rest on a laptop.

The Muslim Community at GDS hosted its third annual Ramadan Fast-a-thon. The Fast-a-thon started 3 years ago as an opportunity for people around GDS to experience and appreciate what Muslims do during the month of Ramadan and build a sense of unity.

Ramadan is the month in which Muslims fast from dawn to sunset and spend time on more religious activities. Ramadan is something that Muslims look forward to and use as a time to reflect. It is usually a very social period when people come together to break their fast.

Taking part in the Fast-a-thon

To try and include as many people as possible, the Fast-a-thon provided different ways for people to take part. We were mindful that not everyone would have the ability to fast for the whole day.  Colleagues were invited to participate in a number of ways including:

  • drinking water but not eating
  • skipping lunch
  • donating lunch money to the selected charity

This was really important and participants really appreciated that there were different ways to join in.

Beginning the day

As is traditional during Ramadan, for those that were able to fast, they would wake up before dawn (usually around an hour and half before sunrise) to eat their final bits of food before the fasting started.

Some participants reflected how it was amazing to think that millions of people around the world are doing the same thing, which gave them a sense of connection.

Support throughout the day

We hosted a Slack channel for all the participants, where they could share how they were doing throughout the day and send messages of support to others. People really enjoyed being able to share this experience together.

Whenever someone struggled, there was always lots of support and encouragement to keep people going.

Breaking fast together

This year, we also broke fast together, which is known as Iftar. This was done virtually. This was a really fun experience where we congratulated each other for completing the Fast-a-thon.

Many participants said how the fasting prompted them to appreciate the food in front of them and think of those who are less fortunate. There were also lots of comments about how good the food tasted after not eating during the day.

A big part of the Ramadan experience is getting together and seeing friends and family. So it was great to share that experience with GDS colleagues.

Reflections after a week

We also had a session after a week to share some thoughts and reflections.

A common theme was the feeling of togetherness and support in going through this experience together.

I was curious to know what it was like to fast, so I appreciated the opportunity to experience it along with colleagues, even just for one day. The conversations and reflections afterwards were really interesting. I'd definitely like to do it again next time!”- James, Lead Technical Architect

I really enjoy the day of fasting although I found it tough this year! There is something about the bonding and knowing that each of us is going through a similar experience that brings us all together. It makes you appreciate what you have and to think positively beyond the one day we fast. Utmost respect and thanks to everybody for taking part and to our Muslim friends for fasting for the whole month of Ramadan.” - Iain, Engagement Lead

I’m glad I took part in the Fast-a-thon and joined my colleagues in fasting. Not having my morning coffee was a challenge, and keeping my mind in check with good thoughts. It helped me be more mindful and purposeful. Knowing that I’m not alone kept me going as well. I really appreciated the moment of breaking the fast and sharing experience with others.”- Agz, Senior Interaction Designer

I'm really happy I chose to take part in 2022's Fast-a-thon. It was quite eye-opening to have a taster of what our Muslim colleagues experience during Ramadan, and the welcome and support I got from the Fast-a-thon Slack channel was heart-warming.

I found fasting hard at times. But overall, not eating didn't affect my work or mood as much as I thought it would. And of course, I had the privilege of knowing exactly when I would be able to eat again, many people in the world don't.” - Kim, Senior Content Designer

Reflections from Muslim colleagues

The Muslims at GDS really appreciated non-Muslim colleagues joining in. They enjoyed getting to know new people they hadn’t interacted with before and sharing their experience together.

As a Muslim, it's incredibly heartwarming to see non-Muslims fast alongside us out of solidarity, or take an active interest in our religion and what we do during Ramadhaan. The Fast-a-thon was a brilliant opportunity to connect with colleagues, and share knowledge and experiences! It was wonderful to exchange tips, thoughts and encouragement in the Slack channel - I picked up a few things myself despite having observed Ramadan for quite a few years now.” - Fatemah, Content Training Administrator

Final thoughts

The Fast-a-thon was a great opportunity to share the spirit of Ramadan and show different aspects of Islam. We also enjoyed the togetherness of the Fast-a-thon and the chance to get to know colleagues from different teams who we would not usually interact with.

We would like to also thank everyone for taking part in the Fast-a-thon with great commitment and enthusiasm. We hope to continue the Fast-a-thon next year and have more colleagues join in.

Sharing and comments

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  1. Comment by Steve posted on

    It's very healthy to approach different religions with an open mind.
    Before forming an opinion on something we should engage our critical faculties and research the subject.
    I suggest reading the koran, especially the hadith - and then form an ethical opinion on this service.

  2. Comment by Leonie Tame posted on

    I'm all for any ways to share what it's like to practise another culture - and particularly what it means when we come to design services for the whole population. After spending a good chunk of my early life (ten years) in the Middle East I thought I was well aware of how life changed during Ramadan - for everyone. Society as a whole changed its modus operandi. It's really easy to forget this when in a secular or western country; we tend to think we're multicultural in parts of the UK, whereas what we're actually doing is expecting everyone to "do it our way".

    Where I'm going with this is that there are practical applications for this kind of cultural insight; thinking about what later working hours, scheduling, shifts and so on means for practising Muslims during Ramadan is something to work into service design. Thank you for this reminder!