Former Leicester mayor fondly remembers his holiday with our charity
As we approach Ramadan, former Leicester City Mayor and Muslim, Abdul Razak Osman, reflects on the time as a child when he enjoyed a holiday with our charity
As Ramadan get closer, the thoughts of all Muslims move to this period of reflection and devotion during the fasting period. This year it runs from around April 23 to around May 23.
One important aspect of Ramadan is charity giving which in itself has many facets. The almsgiving is called Zakat where help is offered to poverty-stricken members of the Muslim community, often given overseas. Sadaqah is giving in the name of God for the Muslim community and non-members too. Lillah can cover giving to aid children in desperate need.
Leicester Children’s Holidays could be the kind of charity to benefit from this generous giving by Muslims during Ramadan. It costs £450 for each child to go on a free holiday to an outdoor centre. It provides free respite breaks for disadvantaged, and often vulnerable, children who may face difficult circumstances at home.
Former Leicester mayor Abdul Osman has every reason to be thankful to Leicester Children’s Holidays. He is 54 now but as an eight-year-old child he travelled to Mablethorpe with the charity and enjoyed two weeks of fun with his new friends.
Abdul was the second youngest child sharing a house with nine family members in a terraced house in Bakewell Street, Leicester. He said: “We had two bedrooms and a box room so it was a bit of a squeeze. There were seven kids, our mum, dad and my grandfather. There were five children sleeping in one room and we did live in poverty.
“We had a toilet and an outside loo, one bathroom and a tiny kitchen. We were poor and I spent much of my childhood kicking a ball about either in the street, down the side alley or at the back of the house. Spinney Park was nearby so we went there too.
“We played hopscotch and a game called Gillidanda which is played with two sticks: a large one shaped like a bat which is used to hit a smaller one shaped like a rugby ball.”
His parents had moved to Leicester from Kenya when Abdul was six. He said: “I remember it being so cold in England. I went to Shenton Primary School and my dad walked the three and a half miles to Troon Way to work for an engineering firm.
“When I got the chance to go on holiday with Leicester Children’s Holidays, I had never seen the sea or even been on a coach before in the UK. It was traumatic for me as I had never been away from my family and never been on holiday. The food was different to what I was used to, the whole environment was different, and I was with people I didn’t know.
“It was an emotional goodbye for me. To sit on the coach parked at Holy Bones and wave to my parents and be surrounded by strangers was difficult. I went in the early 1970s and I am sure there is exactly the same apprehension for the children these days.
“But, just like them, once I settled in after a few days I was playing games on the beach, enjoying the donkey rides, trying a tug of war with the other lads and party games. It was great. I really benefitted from the holiday and it opened my eyes to the possibilities in life.
“Leicester Children’s Holidays is a great charity which offers unique opportunities for children to learn social and life skills. I built up my confidence and nothing has changed there. The charity is still as relevant today as it has always been.”
Abdul went on to be a careers adviser and worked at secondary schools and Leicester College.
He was elected as a county councillor and city councillor, the latter serving for 20 years. He was the former civic Lord Mayor in 2012/13 and served on the executive with the elected city council Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby, holding various portfolios.
He now lives in the Rushey Mead area of Leicester and is married with two children.