JEDDAH: Three years ago, during the holy month of Ramadan, a group of young enthusiasts volunteered in an Iftar Sayem campaign, serving and distributing iftar (breakfast) meals to fasting people in need.
When the month ended, instead of winding up the project they decided to expand it to continue serving the community even after Ramadan. This eagerness to serve humanity led to the establishment of the Ihyaa Group.
Bayan Hallak (one of the group’s founders) told Arab News: “We could not accept the fact of going back to our normal routines, and usual lives. We had the energy and the knowledge, so we thought why not start giving more to people?”
Ihyaa is a social initiative that focuses on school renovation projects in Jeddah’s poor neighborhoods. Ten young architects founded the group back in 2015.
“We wanted to make a sustainable change to our community,” Hallak said.
“By doing something that has an effect, not only on a single person or a family but rather on the generations to come. That was when we decided we wanted to renovate schools and create better learning environments.”
The group’s main objective is to develop a generation of educated and socially active students, by providing them with the opportunity to participate in the renovation of their own schools.
Hallak said: “In some schools, we worked on the lack of basic needs for health, safety and sometimes education itself.”
Despite the limitations of time and resources, the group (which has eight strong, independent females among its members) has successfully renovated five schools, which has had a positive impact on 650 students. Their work included building classrooms and improving the learning environment by enhancing ventilation and light. They used their own architectural skills and knowledge to improve the schools’ interiors, drawing interactive arts and painting walls.
The group used psychological techniques using different colors in classrooms. “After we finished one of our projects, the school’s principal was surprised by the impact of our work on her students,” Hallak said.
They also do periodic checkups, maintenance, and activities throughout the year. For instance, they have created libraries in three different schools. As a result, their work has had a positive impact on students. Hallak explained: “Now, some of the schools are being used for (adult) literacy classes and craft workshops in the afternoon.”
Ihyaa has been supported through collaborations with local people and sponsorship from suppliers and organizations through their corporate social responsibility programs. This way the group receives the means to do its work effectively. Aiming to help more students every year, the group is planning to work on two more projects this summer.
“We are passionate to do more, and people are always willing to collaborate and support our work for the development of the community. We educate children today to enhance their living standards in the hope that in the future they will have the power to serve their community by themselves and continue the cycle of giving,” Hallak said.