Saudis use social media to organize charity drives

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp are used to reach out to people and create groups and charity drives

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Saudis are using social media websites to increase awareness and spread the culture of volunteerism in the Kingdom during Ramadan.

A number of young Saudis who regularly volunteer to help feed poor expatriate workers and poverty-stricken families in the month of Ramadan are now using social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the popular instant-messaging service WhatsApp to reach out to people and create their own groups and charity drives.

"I got a message from my friend that they were making iftar for about 300 people and so I spread the message in a WhatsApp group and on Facebook. We had so many families come in and donate large sums on behalf of every family member that it just multiplied 10 times within a day," Rabab Majeed, a 28-year-old graphic designer living in Jeddah, told Saudi Gazette.

The group Rabab joined focuses on distributing iftar meals to families and children but they also buy fried chicken meals from the popular local fast-food chain Al-Baik for street cleaners and laborers.

The group gathered all homemade packages and Al-Baik meals and distributed them in different areas of Jeddah, including Ruwais, Sharfiyah, Aziziyah, Hamra and Kandara.

"They barely have a chance to enjoy Al-Baik and we know they love it as much as we do. It makes a difference; I think people should know it’s a luxury for them and our small gesture helps bring a smile to their faces," said Bandar Mohammad, a 26-year-old volunteer in Jeddah.

Volunteers — almost all younger than 30 — collect money and food from families and make small iftar packages containing water, dates, cake, bread and other refreshments to give away at mosques and to laborers working on the streets before Maghreb. They said working as a group provided them with the motivation to get out and physically participate in charity rather than simply donating money.

"I reached out to this volunteer group in Jeddah and they said they already had enough people so I could only donate money. I wanted to go myself and volunteer because I am a regular contributor. It was then that a friend reached out to me and we distributed iftar packages to the disabled and street cleaners. It was the best feeling," said Ahmad Amjad, a 27-year-old marketing manager.

The current trend of organizing charity drives on social media websites is also helping social media users gain access to information about vital events and has already encouraged many young residents in the Kingdom to commit to public service.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette.