It was the Thursday before Jalsa in 2014 and I was working in accommodation on the Hadeeqatul Mahdi site. Our job was to register guests, see if they needed any bedding and settle them with mattresses in the marquees. Guests had been arriving all morning and the marquees were quickly filling up when, in the late morning, a fire drill inspection team arrived and we had to carry out a fire drill. Our team sprang into action, one took over the fire bell to alert the guests, several swept through the marquees making sure no one was left behind. Within five minutes everyone, even disabled and elderly guests, had assembled outside the accommodation area. The inspection team were happy and we helped the guests go back to their marquees and continued working.
Afterwards it got me thinking about all the various work I had done at Jalsas down the years and that other volunteers did, both male and female, adults and children. For this Jalsa I had attended a fire safety course along with female volunteers from other departments, learning about fire hazards, how to deal with fires and keeping people safe. It meant that during the Jalsa each area had a fire safety team who could swing into action and evacuate the whole site if necessary. My accommodation duty gave me skills in dealing with people in difficult circumstances, such as tiredness, bad weather, etc. At the end of a previous Jalsa, I visited my daughters who were still working in accommodation and found them and their team in ponchos helping guests and their children with baggage onto golf buggies to leave the site; this was after they had settled their department’s finances and helped stack returned mattresses – and all of this with smiles on their faces.
Around the jalsa site there had been hundreds of women working throughout the weekend, keeping the site clean, distributing food and water, running various stalls, managing respite and crèche areas, inspecting for hygiene and safety, driving guests around, administering first aid and many, many more jobs. And whenever they saw someone they knew or just made eye contact with, they would pause, often only briefly, to offer greetings and ask ‘‘how are you?’’ before continuing with their work.
Down the years, I’ve seen and experienced, working at different jobs in extremely hot, sunny conditions as well as wearing wellies in the rain and mud. I’ve been astounded at the passion and skill displayed by these ordinary female volunteers. I’ve worked with teachers, doctors, mothers, students, scientists and more, each volunteer unafraid to get their hands dirty and each working their hardest to get the job done, just to make the Jalsa run smoothly for the pleasure of Almighty God.
What an example these cheerful women are for the younger generation and as has happened through the years, that younger generation will undoubtedly follow in their footsteps and become similar inspirational, smiling women.