A child’s simple question to his father about why there were children going hungry when his family had shish kebabs for dinner every day of Ramadan last year moved an Egyptian in Jeddah to donate $20,000 (about Dh73,446) — all his life’s savings — to the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

“He later told us that he and  his six-year-old son were watching a YouTube video. Last year the Horn of Africa experienced its worst drought in 60 years and the video showed two children crawling towards a WFP food camp,” explains Elise Bijon, Partnerships and Business Development Manager Mena, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, United Nations WFP, in an interview with GN Focus.

“He read that if each one of us does his bit, hunger can be eradicated. When we received the donation, we all thought the donor would be a rich man, but it turned out to be someone like us. Everyone in our office had tears in their eyes that day,” she says.
“Hunger is, in fact, at the core of Ramadan’s spirit, through the holy experience of fasting that offers followers a unique opportunity to connect with the hungry poor,” says Bijon, who, with partners in the region, is spearheading the WFP’s first official Ramadan campaign. ‘Breaking fast is a joy many will not know’, is the tagline of the campaign (wfp.org/Ramadan) starting July 16.

Every dollar donated will be matched by the Rotary Club of Dubai, with its youth arm, Rotaract, helping spread the word.

Organisations say that donations nearly double during Ramadan, and many of them have specific programmes for the season.
“Ramadan is a month in which we are very active with our fundraising and awareness campaigns. Ramadan is the only month throughout the year during which Dubai Cares launches an aggressive, large-scale fundraising campaign,” says Tariq Al Gurg, CEO of Dubai Cares, adding that their support is not limited to Muslims.

Small change, big difference

Keeping Ramadan in mind, the UAE Red Crescent Authority (RCA) has launched the Ramadan 2012 campaign, its largest annual charity drive known as Lanterns of Charity, with a Dh100-million donation collection target.

Even for a target as big as that, no amount is too small. While the programme is being implemented across 50 countries, individual donors can give as little as Dh15 to Dh20 for an iftar, Dh25 to Dh100 for Eid clothing for an individual or Dh200 to Dh500 for Eid clothing for a family.

WFP says that four dirhams can feed a mother and her child for a day in a country affected by a severe food crisis, while Dh200 can help provide school meals to an underprivileged child for an entire school year. Humanitarian organisations also customise projects for large donations with food, education and health projects taking preference in specific regions.

A multitude of programmes

Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry has organised a Dubai Chamber Charity Night to support the work of AdoptaCamp, which puts together care packages containing supplies for workers in Dubai’s labour camps. “The deadline for collection is July 24. We’re aiming to make 5,000 care packages this year,” says Saher Shaikh of AdoptaCamp.

Meanwhile, the UAE Charity Body has started its Ramadan programme in Palestine. The programme comprises six projects — iftar tables, alms, Eid presents, food parcels and a programme for needy students.

The Khalifa Bin Zayed Humanitarian Foundation has announced that it has made agreements with more than 600 Emirati families to prepare 1.7 million iftar meals to be distributed among the poor during the month of Ramadan.

Giving is easy — it can be done online, at collection points and by cheque. The RCA, for instance, has set up 200 collection points for donations across the UAE, mostly at mosques, shopping centres, traditional souqs and in densely populated areas among other locations. Dubai Cares also organises an activity at the Star Atrium in the Dubai Mall to engage the public.

“The difference during Ramadan is that people approach you for giving. We are usually approached by companies that wish to make a donation, conduct an employee-led fundraising campaign or to dedicate their corporate iftar budget to support our cause,” says Bijon.

But what’s next? Like most other organisations, humanitarian bodies work best on targets and plans. Bijon says, “We are trying at a global level to institute monthly giving. It is ideal for us if we can plan and anticipate and don’t have to depend on momentum. For example, if we are taking a school feeding project, those children are going to stay in school the next month as well.”

Ensuring that you contribute in time to the right cause will ensure that your charity dirham is indeed life-changing.
“The men at camps say that the kindness they’ve experienced on the charity night has changed their lives. It’s amazing that volunteers have said that being part of the whole experience has changed their lives too," says Shaikh.

Donations: giving wisely

Cash, kind or labour — all types of donations can make a difference if given the right way. If your charity is local, visiting or working for it is another possibility. The Khalifa Bin Zayed Humanitarian Foundation, for instance, has tasked Emirati families with the preparation of food.

Similarly, donating in kind is usually best when specified by the charity, as in the case of Dubai Chamber’s support of AdoptaCamp where individuals can donate supplies up until August 8.

Internationally, most organisations agree that the most effective way of helping a relief effort is by donating money. Most aid organisations do not accept donated medicines — they lack the resources needed to sort them or to ensure that these meet regulations.
Organisations such as WFP have policies that ensure that they buy supplies locally. Often, the cost of shipping supplies is greater than the cost of the supplies themselves. Corporate donors who contribute products are requested to bear the cost of shipping as well.
— S.S.