Mina, Mecca - Saudi Arabia’s new “White Vests” initiative aims to unify the various overlapping volunteer groups who served pilgrims during this year’s Hajj.
The initiative, launched by the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, provides an umbrella group to coordinate government, private sector, and boy scouts volunteers from across the Kingdom under one program.
“The Ministry of Labor and Social Development has come up with this new initiative to organize the voluntary works done during the Hajj, and called the volunteers the ‘White Vests’,” said Hussain al-Hazmi, a media supervisor at the Saudi Ministry of Labor and Social Development.
“This helps all the groups organize the work better this year and hopefully will allow us to assist more pilgrims this time around,” he added.
Usually, volunteers are split between a number of government initiatives including civil defense and health sectors, as well as universities, the Saudi scouts, and private sector organizations such as the Red Crescent.
Every Hajj season, young boys from the Saudi Arabian Scouts Association also take part in the volunteer work in the sacred sites of Mina, Muzdalifa and Arafat.
“Every year, we see hundreds of stories from the volunteers, who have spent energy and hours of their own time. They’ve been away from their families just so they can serve the guests of God,” Ahmad Hattan, a “White Vests” volunteer from Riyadh taking part in Hajj for the first time, told Al Arabiya English.
The Saudi government also employs tens of thousands of staff to assist the nearly 2.5 million people who take part in the Islamic pilgrimage of Hajj.
More than 38,000 employees from across Saudi Arabia’s ministries handle the transport, mail, shipping, and logistics services, while a further 30,000 employees are on standby to provide health services for pilgrims.
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