Operation Ramzieh is a volunteer organization started in Ottawa that provides grocery delivery to vulnerable seniors and others who face difficulty accessing food during the Covid19 pandemic. Although no one is turned down, priority is given to seniors, single parents and their children.
Abbis Mahmoud is an Ottawa based restaurateur and is the driving force behind this largely volunteer run organization. Last July Abbis’ mother died and was buried in Lebanon. This year he planned to return to Lebanon but the Covid19 pandemic intervened making travel impossible. He was determined to find a way to honour her memory as “she had always instilled in me the value of giving”. Operation Ramzieh was launched in her name. Abbis talked about an elderly aunt who has been very fearful about leaving her home to shop for groceries during the pandemic. He was struck by how many vulnerable seniors must be like her and don’t have access to food because of fear or their inability to get to stores.
Abbis owns several restaurants in Ottawa. “I bought food in bulk and found that I could help seniors who couldn’t go out by delivering food kits to them”.
Soon, through local social service agencies and in a partnership with Bruyere’s, an Ottawa based convent, the word spread very quickly. Eventually requests came in from several cities in Ontario. In Toronto, They were contacted by The Neighbourhood Organization which led to the recent seniors’ food delivery initiative from The Corner in St. James Town. Project Ramzieh is currently working with communities in Kitchener, Hamilton and London.
How does it work?
“It is all volunteer driven. I have been amazed by how responsive people have been to offer to volunteer their time to pack the kits and make the deliveries”.
In Toronto, friends in the business community have provided warehouse space to store food purchased in bulk. He has also had tech support that has helped with establishing a good data base and website.
Farmers and local food producers are struggling to find a market for their products since the closure of restaurants during the pandemic. This has generated donations of food from them and a means of making sure it doesn’t go to waste. It has also helped to provide fresh produce like eggs and vegetables.
“Our biggest challenge is funding,” Abbis stated, as the increased media attention has prompted some seniors to find their way to his restaurant to request for groceries. Abbis wants people to know that the whole point of Operation Ramzieh is that “we will come to them”.
What makes this such a success?
“We can respond very quickly and we are best suited to respond quickly and deliver right to the door”.
For information about this project including:
How to get a food kit
How to donate
How to volunteer
“About 40% of seniors access the service online and those who cannot use a computer can call directly”. 1 800-321- 5973