But as tough as things are out in the developing world, Abbas feels that in many ways the situation is actually worse for the poor here in Toronto. That is a big reason why he devotes so much of his time, energy and money to the citys homeless.
"Ive never met someone like Abbas, who has devoted everything he does in life to improving the lives of others," says Aman Bassi, a regular volunteer who has also gone out and delivered the sandwiches with Abbas a handful of times. "His genuine ambition to help these people in need is well received whenever he calls out to someone on the street, hands someone a hot tea or sandwich or gives them a hug and says, God bless you."
Abbas has remade the basement of his club, El Mocambo, into a kitchen that is used exclusively for making close to 1,000 sandwiches every week, before they are later delivered. Originally, he had paid staff that produced the sandwiches, but now a team of regular and rotating volunteers like Bassi come in on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Some of the volunteers also take advantage of the uplifting opportunity to go out on the streets with Abbas and personally deliver the sandwiches to the homeless.
On certain days, young school children gather and make sandwiches, instilling a habit of giving at an early age. Another group of kids suffering from autism get together and make cookies to be given to the homeless as well as to volunteers.
"Its amazing; disabled children helping the poorest of the poor, meanwhile many able-bodied wealthy individuals are wasting their energies in other pursuits," Abbas comments.
Sana Shamim, who was visiting from Calgary, also volunteered as both a sandwich maker and deliverer. "My experience working on this project has been spectacular," she says. "What I really like of what theyre doing here is that theyre helping to give people food and sustenance and not blindly giving them money and telling them ok heres some money and then just leaving."
This focus on taking the time and effort to serve these people of unfortunate means has indeed been a successful blueprint. Salam Toronto discovered this when it joined Abbas and two volunteers during the twilight hours of the morning delivering the carefully-made sandwiches, along with tea, water, and donuts. Almost all of the recipients living on the street were unfailingly polite, well-spoken and immeasurably grateful of Abbas.
"When I pass homeless people on the street I often wonder what their story is, and want to ask them where theyre coming from and what led them to be where theyre at right now," Shamim said before embarking on the journey through the city streets.
Abbas knows their stories, their names, and even some of their dietary preferences of food. Going out and meeting them every night, he has not only fed them and at times clothed them, but he has also built lasting relationships with them.
"I love you," he genuinely says to one of the homeless individuals he has gotten to know over the past two years.
"Canada is a rich country, especially here in Toronto," says Victor, who recently immigrated from Bulgaria and now works for Abbas and also assists in his project for the homeless. "Yet you see hundreds of people with nothing."
Victor continues; "There are some other organizations that serve food and help, but usually there is some sort of catch, or you have to sign up or pray with them, which some people may find annoying or infringing on the little pride they have left. But with Abbas, there is none of that. He wishes you God-speed and that is all."
For Abbas team of volunteers, they too have been greatly influenced in a short period of time.
"For years Ive headed downtown for a night out and paid these beautiful people no attention, Ive missed so many opportunities to help good people desperately in need," says Bassi. "The major impact this experience has had on my life is its given me a new sense of humility and grounded me. To serve the poorest of the poor has really put my own life in perspective." (Канада / Ontario / Toronto)