Social media and apps are platforms for good deeds during Ramadan

Joy of Youth has expanded volunteer work to include free medical checks for people and projects during Ramadan. (Supplied)
Updated 13 May 2019

Social media and apps are platforms for good deeds during Ramadan

  • Holy month an active season for charity work
  • Social media promotes volunteering

JEDDAH: The holy month of Ramadan is seen as a time for giving and improving one’s moral character, leading to many charitable and volunteering activities taking place across the Kingdom.
Social media platforms and apps — despite being blamed for social ills and mental health problems among the younger generation — have a role to play in spreading the Ramadan messages of selflessness.
“Ramadan is definitely an active season for us. We prepare a special new campaign for Ramadan every year,” Saeed Azhar, founder of a volunteering non-profit, told Arab News. “The technology of today has greatly helped to define the roles of voluntary groups and to show their impact both locally and globally. Apps and social media provided better channels for communication among those interested in volunteering and raising awareness of its importance and positive impact in society.” 
His non-profit, Joy of Youth, has an Instagram account with more than 24,000 followers and a Twitter account of more than 9,000 followers. The group has distributed iftar food packages and handed out gifts to departing pilgrims — just two out of 55 campaigns successfully completed in the five years since it started.
“We have more projects in Ramadan, which means the opportunities we create increase greatly, and consequently the number of our volunteers also increases.”
Joy of Youth was started in 2013 by Azhar and a group of young Saudi students in the US. The group began by distributing iftar meals in Jeddah and then gradually expanded, its work reaching 10 cities in the Kingdom including Jeddah, Makkah, Tabuk, Dammam and Alkhobar.
Joy of Youth has developed the type of services offered, and this year launched a health campaign.
“Human Health” aims to raise awareness in poorer neighborhoods by distributing bulletins and brochures, and offering free medical checks for people.
Azhar said social media platforms helped Joy of Youth attract young people who wanted to contribute to improving the lives of others, as well as sponsors and charities wanting to play their role in Saudi Arabia’s social development.
“We have been able to spread our message and invite those who believe in it to join us. We saw the desire of many to leave a positive impact on their communities and their surroundings, which pushed us to expand outside the western region of the Kingdom in response to the increasing demand to participate in our initiatives,” he added.
Azhar said the downside to social media — as far as Joy of Youth was concerned — was that the group could not include as many “passionate volunteers” as it wanted to in its campaigns.
 “Twitter is the most interactive platform among volunteers and those who wish to join us,” he added.
The Khadoum app is another social initiative that was developed by a group of young Saudis driven by their sense of community responsibility - and taking volunteering to another level.
 “Khadoum was created in an effort to spread civic engagement and community participation among youth,” the app’s co-founder Dania Al-Masri told Arab News. “The iOS and Android app takes users on a journey that will later result in an increase in their overall empathy level and sense of leadership. It also motivates participants to acquire a higher sense of responsibility and honesty.”
She said social media had helped to spread the concept of volunteering in Saudi Arabia and inspire the public to do good. “It has been a very powerful tool used to shed light on certain causes that need intervention, and we are very happy to see more and more aware individuals use this powerful tool to advocate for a community challenge or a cause.”
Al-Masri and Khadoum co-founder Fidaa Al-Hassan started the app as a tech-based solution to civil society issues. Although the app began in Jeddah, the duo want to reach people across the Gulf.
 The app enables users to unlock a set of volunteer ideas and community challenges. People are encouraged to provide solutions to the presented challenges, or complete the volunteer ideas and provide proof of completion.
 The volunteer ideas and community challenges are updated on a regular basis through the app, and participants are encouraged to complete them and upload a verification photo or video. An app admin views the verification method presented, and either approves the completion of the mission or rejects it.
 Upon approval of the mission, the user gains points that are equivalent to community hours and can get certificates for their work. Khadoum certificates are issued by the Oyoon Jeddah Charity.

 Khadoum will be three years old in July. “Khadoum started out from the sole motivation of wanting to provide a window of opportunity to anyone who would like to volunteer. We truly wanted to make volunteering a daily habit that is convenient and accessible to all,” Al-Masri said.
She added that more people are looking to volunteer and do good deeds during Ramadan.
“We do notice an increase in the engagement level. We find Ramadan the perfect opportunity to partner up with brands and help them achieve their corporate social responsibility goals through collaborating with Khadoum,” she said.


Saudi diving enthusiasts go overboard again … with a raft of essential safety precautions

The Red Sea — one of the most beautiful seas for diving — will greatly encourage local tourism, says diving instructor Lujain Shugdar. She wants to have divers from abroad visit SaudiArabia. (Supplied)
Updated 05 July 2020

Saudi diving enthusiasts go overboard again … with a raft of essential safety precautions

  • Before starting the trip, divers will be briefed on the hygienic and safety measures and social distancing rules, with a full explanation on how to use sanitizers and face masks

JEDDAH: It’s almost business as usual again for many across Saudi Arabia after the lifting of lockdown — and divers are more excited than ever to be back at sea. Divers in the Kingdom are following the safety precautions issued by the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Health and the General Directorate of Border Guard.
Lujain Shugdar, diving instructor at Jeddah’s Natlus Divers and two international organizations — the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and SNSI — and who has taught more than 150 students, said that the group had been on six diving trips since the lifting of lockdown.
Although international flights are yet to resume to the Kingdom, with the abundance of beautiful coral reefs along the Red Sea, Shugdar said that she wanted diving to be one of the main tourist activities in Saudi Arabia.
“The Red Sea is one of the most beautiful seas in the world for diving; it will greatly encourage tourism in the Kingdom. I want to encourage tourism in the Kingdom — whether for locals to enjoy or have divers from abroad visit us (later on),” she said.


With more than 30 years of service, Natlus offers many different activities such as free-diving, technical diving and recreational diving.
Shugdar said that Natlus were following the directives of the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Health to comply with full safety standards.
She explained that as directed by the authorities, the number of divers and people on a diving boat was half its normal capacity.
“We sanitize the boat and equipment before people board it. We also make sure all safety devices are working, and we add additional oxygen cylinders on board in case there is a need to use it. It’s usually one cylinder, but now we will add one regular cylinder and another big cylinder on the boat.”
“Before starting the trip, divers will be briefed on the hygienic and safety measures and social distancing rules, with a full explanation on how to use sanitizers and face masks. There will also be gloves and they will be changeable; a closed waste bin will also be available on board,” she said.
One can sense her feeling of relief and excitement after months away from the sea. When the authorities announced the return of diving and watersports activities, Shugdar immediately booked a diving trip.
“The sea is where you relieve stress from your personal and work life. It has a huge impact on one’s happiness and well-being. I’m so excited about this decision, and of course will follow all safety precautions to ensure our health and the health of the divers with us on board,” she said.
Saudi diver, Mishael Abdulaziz, 29, said that diving was one of the least likely sport activities to transmit COVID-19 as equipment was not usually shared.
“We don’t usually share equipment. Equipment is only shared during the very rare event of an out-of-air emergency,” she told Arab News.
“An out-of-air emergency is when one of the divers runs out of air unexpectedly due to poor planning or inattentiveness to the pressure gauge or air supply. In this instance, a buddy will share his or her air with the out-of-air diver.”
Even though dive centers thoroughly clean their equipment, many divers are encouraged to buy their own regulators as opposed to renting them to further avoid transmission.


Saudi-based Captain Issam Kalasina, King Abdullah Economic City’s (KAEC) Bay La Sun Marina Watersports and Yacht Club operations manager, said that they were very happy with the return of the activity, but there was a need to exercise caution.
Kalasina, who has been in the diving business for 42 years, told Arab News: “We are very happy to come back and resume the activity — with a certain limit.
“Only half the capacity is allowed on board at the moment to avoid social distancing issues and to ensure all safety precautions are being met on board. The number of passengers has been limited to half,  captain and crew included,” he said.
Kalasina said that following the safety precautions required by the pandemic, captains were assigned to have on board gloves, masks, gel sanitizers and liquid sanitizers.
“The gel sanitizer is for the hands, and the liquid sanitizer is for objects on the boat,” he said.
“The boat is completely sanitized and rinsed before we accept passengers on board; it is then sanitized and rinsed again after the trip is over.”