Young Saudis revel in feeding the poor this Ramadan

Young Saudis choose to spend their late afternoons during Ramadan handing out food to the poor

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Striding with a large supply of bags of Al-Baik meals in the heart of Al-Ruwais and Aziziya districts, a group of young Saudis choose to spend their late afternoons during Ramadan handing out food to the poor.

A group of young Saudis studying in Washington, came up with a series of charity campaigns and then decided to bring their work back to Saudi Arabia. They named their group, Joy of Youth, and determined to make their motto in ‘putting humans first’.

“We all are students and young. We wanted to make a difference together and do something significant,” says Saeed Azhar, founder of JOY. “So we started several small projects in 2013.”

He says one of their major initiatives is providing iftar to the underprivileged families. The volunteers are distributing 700 meals per day in different areas of Jeddah and Makkah, Al-Baik being a favorite for many people.

In their daily routes, cofounder Walaa Abusabeen says, “We first divide ourselves into groups and assign a leader, who is then in charge of organizing the distribution process at the locations”.

Shahad Felemban, group member, says: “We first started out as a small group. It was a really nice experience. We quickly became like family. We prepare the meals and then distribute them ourselves”.

She added, “Recently, a lot of people are getting involved in similar campaigns. I hope more charity efforts become widespread”.

In the public relations division, Jana Linjawi is in charge of incorporating special needs services to both volunteers and outside recipients of the charity campaigns. She says, “JOY has a welcoming spirit. They’re also well-organized and always prepared for a plan B in all their activities”.

To boost their marketing campaigns, the group invites people in photo booths where individuals take their pictures with props and post them on social media. They have also been documenting their activities on the hour online.

When asked how people have come to know about JOY, cofounder Abusabeen said through social media mostly, “Instagram being the most popular one”.

Rana Balto, volunteer, says, “This is the first time I join a charity campaign. It’s been one of the best experiences so far. It feels good to help out in this cooperative group and contribute to charity, especially during this holy month”.

According to Azhar, JOY’s aim is to alleviate many peoples’ worries that have a heavy burden on their lives. One initiative is raising money to pay off debts for patients who are not able to pay their medical bills. “For example, one man was sent to jail for not being able to pay SR7,000 to the hospital for treatment,” he says. They also bought phone cards for workers on the last day of Ramadan for them to be able to call their families on the eve of Eid.

JOY has also been collecting new clothes and giving them out to the poor.

Azhar says he is constantly thinking of new ideas to spread philanthropy in the Kingdom and launch projects that last a long time for people to benefit practically in their daily lives. This includes creating jobs to help unemployed Saudis.

Many members of the group are currently pursuing their studies in the U.S. and dedicate the rest of their time in altruistic activities at JOY.