Another year, another Ramadan. For many who observe the Islamic holy month of fasting, the arrival of Ramadan poses an annual challenge: how does one actively focus on doing charity in a meaningful way? Charity is a major component of Ramadan, as Muslims believe the holy month is the best time to spend their annual zakat tithe, the general sadaqah charity and the sadaqah al fitr charity that is unique to Ramadan. While many will make donations to anonymous collection boxes, for those who are looking for a more local, direct and tangible effect of their charity, we present a number of hands-on worthy initiatives that can use your support now and throughout the rest of the year.
One of the UAE's most obvious groups that can benefit from a little extra help and care are its labourers — the men in jumpsuits and hard hats who build and maintain the country.
Labouring for labourers
Adopt A Camp helps improve the lives of the UAE's labour camp residents by providing basic necessities of nutrition and hygiene that many find difficult to obtain on their small salaries.
"Now is a great time to get involved with Adopt A Camp because August 18 is going to be our big-care packages night as part of the Dubai Chamber Ramadan Festival at World Trade Centre," founder Saher Shaikh tells GN Focus. "We can do with all the help we can get. We need help in sourcing supplies, help in packing the supplies and help in distributing in the labour camps. We're hoping to create at least 2,000 care packages."
The packages provide a three-month supply of toiletries, hygiene products, bedding, and energy food items. Individuals or companies interested in supporting the initiative or other programmes — either through sadaqah cash donations and volunteering time, or sponsoring necessary care package items — are invited to contact the group via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sharing skills and care
Volunteer in Dubai gives people the chance to donate to a worthy cause and actively help those in need. The group, which also has branches in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, organises a range of activities to help improve the lives of the less fortunate, like those dealing with terminal illness, special needs children, and the visually impaired — groups that Islam urges special care be given to.
"Volunteer in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah gives people the opportunity to do something tangible. We find causes that need attention and then we find volunteers who are able to help.
"If labourers are hungry, we find food for them. If cancer patients need someone to take them for their treatments, we find someone who'll do that. We get on with it," founder Lola Lopez says.
Those interested in donating their time, services or funds to any of Volunteer in Dubai's causes are invited to sign up at www.volunteerindubai.com and select a project or event in which to participate.
Another cause worthy of sadaqah or zakat is helpinghome convicts in the UAE, who have completed their jail terms but do not have the money, to buy a ticket back to their home country. Many stay in jail awaiting a donation to secure them the final leg of their freedom. The Dubai Central Prison is facilitating donors who wish to contribute the cause. Those interested in contributing are invited to contact the Dubai Central Prison Humanitarian Department at +971 4 213 8888.
Funding a child's future
Paying for the education of the less fortunate is a celebrated act in Islam and is considered sadaqah jariyah (charity whose value accrues beyond the donor's life). Funding a needy autistic child's therapy is a combination of two forms of sadaqah jariyah — education and treatment. Children with autism require early, intensive therapy in order to give them the chance to gain independence, learning, and speech skills before the intervention window has passed, but many parents find the Dh20,000 a month cost impossible to meet.
AutismUAE is a Dubai-based not-for-profit organisation that brings affordable therapy and related support services to autistic children, and is collecting sadaqah donations to bring more autism therapists to the UAE to benefit more children. It is also collecting zakat donations for its scholarship fund to sponsor Muslim children whose parents are unable to afford full treatment.
"Every child deserves a chance, and we're trying to make that happen by making therapy as affordable as we possibly can. You can help change a child's life and give their family hope for his or her future," says AutismUAE Director Zeba Khan. More information is available at autismuae.com.
Helping battle cancer
The Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust Gulf in Dubai is a charitable organisation, part of the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre in Pakistan. In order to raise funds for free cancer treatment at the hospital, the trust is holding three fundraising events in Dubai during Ramadan. For more details contact 971 4 457 2434
While local and hands-on activities are worthy of one's time and funds, there is one international effort that deserves mention.
East Africa is currently in the grips of its worst drought in 60 years, imperilling the lives of some 10 million people. It is estimated that the United Nations World Food Programme has only $24 million (Dh88.15 million) of the $300 million needed to feed those affected for the next six months in Kenya alone. Aid agencies are facing a massive shortfall to prevent this catastrophe from worsening.
Those interested in sending their sadaqah to the World Food Programme can do so online at www.wfp.org/donate/fillthecup and select Horn of Africa in the designation to receive the charity.
Campaign: Making a difference this Ramadan
For the fifth year running Majid Al Futtaim Properties' ‘Make A Difference This Ramadan' campaign continues its commitment to help the underprivileged across the region. Its five malls — Deira City Centre, Mall of the Emirates, Mirdif City Centre, Sharjah City Centre and Ajman City Centre - will encourage customers to donate everyday items such as clothing, books, reading glasses and mobile phones. All locations will have collection boxes (right), with collected items being handed over to Red Crescent. The initiative, part of Majid Al Futtaim Properties' regional Ramadan campaign, helped collect more than 62,000 items last year, gathered across the company's nine regional malls, which includes the Alexandria City Centre and Maadi City Centre in Egypt, and the Qurum City Centre and Muscat City Centre in Oman.