Saudis’ love of volunteering on full display during Hajj

Saudis’ love of volunteering  on full display during Hajj
1 / 2
The Saudi government made volunteering an important axis in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan. Volunteers have played an important role in contributing to facing the COVID-19 pandemic and reducing its negative effects. (SPA)
Saudis’ love of volunteering  on full display during Hajj
2 / 2
The Saudi government made volunteering an important axis in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan. Volunteers have played an important role in contributing to facing the COVID-19 pandemic and reducing its negative effects. (SPA)
Short Url
Updated 31 July 2020

Saudis’ love of volunteering on full display during Hajj

Saudis’ love of volunteering  on full display during Hajj

MAKKAH: Though the coronavirus pandemic has affected many things, the culture of volunteering continues to remain strong in Saudi Arabia, as citizens serve the Kingdom’s visitors from all over the world.

Mashael Al-Mubarak, the general director of volunteering at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, told Arab News the Kingdom had paid special attention to the issue of volunteerism, as well as its organization and stimulation, despite the crisis.

“Voluntary work carries new horizons, hopes and aspirations in light of the pandemic. Doing voluntary work . . . symbolizes solidarity and cooperation between members of society,” she said.

“Voluntary work’s importance stems from its active role in developing societies by strengthening the belonging of citizens, investing human energies and directing them towards serving the society by relying on the principle of cooperation, partnership and creativity. The goal of volunteering is to grasp positive effects that contribute efficiently to collective efforts, in order to serve the issues that affect the different segments of Saudi society,” she added.

The Saudi government made volunteering an important axis in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan, and it was included in three important programs: The National Transformation Program 2020, the National Character Enrichment Vision Realization Program, and the Doyof Al-Rahman Program.

“Volunteers played a very important role in contributing to facing the COVID-19 pandemic that invaded the whole world and reducing its negative effects with several services, the most important of which was the Volunteer Work Platform,” Al-Mubarak said.

“This platform is designed to be a pioneer in volunteer work to face the pandemic’s repercussions. It is characterized as a Saudi incubator for volunteer work that provides a safe environment, which serves and organizes the association between agencies providing volunteering opportunities and volunteers in the Kingdom.”

The number of registered beneficiaries on the platform has exceeded 228,000 with more than 2,600 organizations.

Al-Mubarak noted that the ministry had also launched a volunteering manual in crises and disasters using COVID-19 as a model, and a practical guide to help entities and individuals direct volunteering efforts to overcome the resulting repercussions.

“This guide . . . focuses on the pandemic in the Kingdom and how to reach the official authorities with whom they can volunteer during this period,” said Al-Mubarak.

She added that the ministry would take practical steps to promote volunteer work during crises and disasters, managing risks and identifying priority interventions for each target segment, and presenting a set of national initiatives, international experiences and pioneering initiatives in various countries of the world during crises and disasters to benefit from them. “The General Administration of Voluntary Work of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development . . . have confidence in their ability to reach one million volunteers annually by 2030, to contribute to the advancement and reconstruction of the country. In 2020, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of volunteers reached 61,753, implementing 2,279,182 volunteer hours through 22,665 opportunities,” said Al-Mubarak.

For his part, the volunteer community’s CEO, Raed Al-Maliki, told Arab News: “Volunteering is the only work that reflects the giving nature of people, as it is carried out with the selfless desire of volunteers to serve their community.”




Thousands of Saudis volunteer as guides for pilgrims in Makkah during Hajj. (SPA)

“In Saudi Arabia, volunteer work has become a subject of the leadership’s interest and trust in the last ten years. Our leadership has faith in volunteers, of both genders, as some government sectors have launched a series of initiatives that have contributed to empowering and involving volunteers, especially in the field of serving the pilgrims, which every Saudi and expat on this Earth considers as a great honor.”

Al-Maliki said that every year, before the Hajj season, a flow of volunteers who wish to help during the season come forward. However, 2020 may be different due to COVID-19, and would require new and different initiatives, such as sterilization initiatives, social distancing measures and education for pilgrims about safety.

“I believe that a platform that brings together all initiatives related to the service of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque’s visitors should be launched, in order to organize volunteer efforts in the Hajj and Umrah season. It will be supervised by a program serving God’s guests, which was inaugurated by King Salman in 2019 and is one of the Saudi Vision 2020 programs,” said Al-Maliki. “This program analyzes and identifies the need for volunteers, by engaging them in voluntary opportunities belonging to non-profit organizations in order to provide an opportunity to participate in serving the pilgrims and achieving the development goals of the program.”

It is through this organization that volunteers can carry out their work easily and effortlessly, without the trouble of searching for their voluntary needs, he said. They will not be exposed to exploitation or loss of rights, as this platform will be the link and guarantor for all parties and the coordinator of their relationship.

“We in the volunteer community have contributed over the past two years to empowering more than 3,500 volunteers through the ‘Tamkeen’ projects aimed at qualifying volunteer leaders. We also launched the volunteer counseling service, which provided 1,200 voluntary counseling sessions in one year,”  said Al-Maliki.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ghada Al-Ghunaim, a member of the Board of Trustees of the King Abdul Aziz Center for National Dialogue, said: “Saudis are passionate about volunteer work and have extensive experience and expertise, whether within the Kingdom or abroad.”

Al-Ghunaim added that the most important thing that governs volunteerism is the presence of an official body that shields this work, organizes it and ensures its reliability, to reassure parents that their children are under a governmental administration that is properly enhancing and qualifying their capabilities, and immunize them against extremism, and some agendas that function outside of the volunteering framework.

She said that volunteers have become more aware of their responsibilities, the parties they join, their rights, and what they are supposed to offer. The relationship between volunteers and the organizations they work with is more like a contract characterized by commitment, transparency and professionalism, in addition to having great benefits on self-control and preparation.

On her personal experience, Al-Ghunaim said that she spent nine years volunteering inside Saudi Arabia and abroad, which prepared her for the labor market, adding that it was a rehabilitative culture, filling free time and meeting needs.

The pilgrimage this year would not neglect the importance of organizing volunteerism, despite the small numbers of pilgrims, she added. “Volunteers are expected to be trained on how to act, on precautionary measures, and on requirements, in addition to acting cautiously and responsibly.”


Why this retired engineer is a ‘model’ Saudi citizen

The models include typical houses and traditional shops that served fava beans, barbecued meat, kebabs and mabshoor, a traditional Arab dish of bread in a meat or vegetable broth. (Photos/Huda Bashatah)
The models include typical houses and traditional shops that served fava beans, barbecued meat, kebabs and mabshoor, a traditional Arab dish of bread in a meat or vegetable broth. (Photos/Huda Bashatah)
Updated 04 August 2021

Why this retired engineer is a ‘model’ Saudi citizen

The models include typical houses and traditional shops that served fava beans, barbecued meat, kebabs and mabshoor, a traditional Arab dish of bread in a meat or vegetable broth. (Photos/Huda Bashatah)
  • Abdul Aziz Taher Al-Hebshi aims to preserve the history of social and cultural life in Saudi Arabia
  • Makkah in those days was a beacon for writers, poets and scientists

MAKKAH: A Saudi agricultural engineer is spending his retirement years helping to preserve the Kingdom’s architectural and cultural history — in the form of extremely accurate models of important buildings and sites in Jeddah and Makkah.

Now Abdul Aziz Taher Al-Hebshi has turned his house in Jeddah’s Al-Rawdah neighborhood into an exhibition space to showcase his models, which represent a fascinating record of daily social and cultural life in the cities in the early-to-mid 20th century.
A good example of this is his model of a “writer’s cafe” in the Misfalah neighborhood of Makkah that was once popular with writers, intellectuals and poets. Through it, he said, he aims to immortalize the role these figures played in the development of literature in Saudi Arabia and the country’s cultural history.
“Knowledgeable people told me that the cafe where Makkah’s writers, poets and intellectuals used to go to was Saleh Abdulhay Cafe, located next to Bajrad Cafe,” 72-year-old Al-Hebshi told Arab News. “Similar cafes were found throughout Makkah’s Misfalah neighborhood in the past.”
He said culture and literature thrived in Makkah in those days, along with the study of science and the quest for knowledge. The city was therefore a beacon for writers, poets and scientists, and the Saleh Abdulhay Cafe was one of the places where they could gather for intellectual and cultural discussions.
“Among the cultural and intellectual figures that used to go to the writer’s cafe … was the Saudi Minister of Culture Mohammed Abdu Yamani,” he said, adding that such venues were the country’s first literary and cultural forums, where people could gather to discuss literary and intellectual issues.
With his models and exhibition, Al-Hebshi said he wants to depict and preserve this history of day-to-day life and culture in Makkah and Jeddah in days gone by. In addition to the cafe, his models include typical houses and traditional shops that served fava beans, barbecued meat, kebabs and mabshoor, a traditional Arab dish of bread in a meat or vegetable broth.
In particular, he said he wants to immortalize the lives of the intellectuals and writers of the era by documenting their daily lives, the ways in which people interacted with them and how neighborhoods such as Misfalah developed as important cultural centers.
So far he has spent three years building his models of cafes, shops, houses and public squares. He has completed four and is working on a fifth. The task requires hard work and patience, he said. For example, it requires great effort to accurately recreate in miniature the rawasheen, the elaborately patterned wooden window frames found in old buildings in Makkah and Jeddah that maximize natural light and air flow. Great accuracy is required throughout the model making process when it comes to the sizes, dimensions and scale.
“One meter in real life is 10 centimeters in the models,” Al-Hebshi said, which represents a scale of one-to-10. “This measure seeks to maintain, as much as possible, the space’s real dimensions.”
The contents of rooms must also be in scale with the building and each other, he explained: “A bottle of Coca-Cola cannot be bigger than a watermelon and so on.” These are all important details in his models, he added, which ensure they are accurate and consistent.
Given the incredible detail and quality of the models, you would be forgiven for thinking Al-Hebshi is a trained carpenter; in fact he is an enthusiastic amateur with a true passion for the craft. Such is his dedication that even hand injuries — and the need for surgery after damaging a finger with a drill — have not kept him from his work for long.

HIGHLIGHT

Abdul Aziz Taher Al-Hebshi says he was inspired by Jeddah’s Old Town and its magnificent Hijazi buildings with rawasheen, beautifully crafted doors, ornate engravings and delicate details, along with the beauty of its landscape and old streets.

He said his model making began after he found some tools that had been abandoned in a carpentry shop, and for materials he used wood and discarded kaftans he found in stores he shopped at. Wood cutting requires great skill, he added, and while he makes most parts of his models, he said he imports some items from abroad to ensure the highest levels of accuracy. For example he buys miniature signs advertising popular international brands such as Pepsi, Miranda and 7-Up, which are difficult to recreate through woodworking.
Al-Hebshi was director of the Agricultural Bank in Jeddah when he was forced to retire in 2006 as a result of a back injury, and he found himself wondering what he could do with his time. A few years earlier he had developed an interest in woodworking but the demands of his job left him with little time to pursue it. A friend who was aware of this suggested he do something with the wood from a large felled neem tree that had been dumped in Jeddah.
“That tree turned out to be the start of me professionally building models,” he said. He added that he was inspired by Jeddah’s Old Town and its magnificent Hijazi buildings with rawasheen, beautifully crafted doors, ornate engravings and delicate details, along with the beauty of its landscape and old streets. The Saudi leadership has put a special focus on the area to showcase its history and splendor and Al-Hebshi said that this has helped him research his detailed designs.
He added that he welcomes all those who wish to visit his house, in Al-Rawdah neighborhood 3, to see his models. He plans to build more to add to his incredible picture of past life in the Kingdom, and the people who helped the country become the nation it is.


Saudi anti-extremism initiative leads the world, says UN expert

Saudi anti-extremism initiative leads the world, says UN expert
Updated 34 min 44 sec ago

Saudi anti-extremism initiative leads the world, says UN expert

Saudi anti-extremism initiative leads the world, says UN expert
  • Head of UN Center for Counter-Terrorism ‘impressed by the pioneering research work’ carried out by Kingdom’s Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology
  • Center’s Gether2 initiative, which aims to raise awareness of the risks of extremism among people with hearing disabilities, singled out for particular praise

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology (Etidal) is a “world leader” in pioneering work to prevent and counter violent extremism, according to Jehangir Khan, director of the UN Center for Counter-Terrorism (UNCCT).

“Etidal is a world leader in this field and we are proud of it,” he said during a visit by a UNCCT delegation to Etidal’s headquarters in Riyadh on Tuesday. “We are very pleased … to be able to work closely with the center.

“We are impressed by the pioneering research work you are doing in this field. We have to follow your example on matters in which we need to cooperate.”

Khan in particular highlighted Eitdal’s Gether2 initiative, which aims to raise awareness among people with hearing disabilities of the risks of extremism, saying he had never seen any other initiatives designed to reach people with disabilities in this way.

“I congratulate you on this project and we would like to know more about it,” he said. “As you know, we in the United Nations have specific agencies that deal with matters of concern to people with disabilities from a humanitarian side only, unlike your side, where I think we should see the whole picture.”

The UN delegation was welcomed to the center by Etidal’s secretary-general, Mansour Al-Shammari. During the visit the two sides discussed ways to enhance cooperation in their efforts to prevent and combat terrorism and violent extremism.

The delegation also learned about the center’s monitoring and analysis mechanisms, the techniques it use and the models it is creating and developing, as well as the most prominent advanced technologies in the field.


Saudi Arabia to take part in G20 digital economy event

Photo/Shutterstock
Photo/Shutterstock
Updated 04 August 2021

Saudi Arabia to take part in G20 digital economy event

Photo/Shutterstock
  • Saudi Arabia has realized qualitative achievements in this regard, mainly the unanimous approval of countries on a roadmap to measure and define the digital economy

TRIESTE: Saudi Arabia is taking part in a G20 digital economy event on Aug. 5.
The G20 Digital Economy Ministers Meeting will discuss key issues related to digital transformation ahead of a final communique that will be endorsed by heads of states and governments at the Rome Summit.
It is an extension of the role played by Saudi Arabia during its G20 presidency last year. The Kingdom aims to focus on empowering people, protecting the planet and forming new horizons.
Saudi Arabia has realized qualitative achievements in this regard, mainly the unanimous approval of countries on a roadmap to measure and define the digital economy, in addition to adopting artificial intelligence principles.
Communication and Information Minister Abdullah Al-Swaha is scheduled to take part in the event.
The G20 aims to take the lead in ensuring a swift international response to the COVID-19 pandemic – able to provide equitable, worldwide access to diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines – while building up resilience to future health-related shocks.
Each G20 presidency includes the organization of ministerial meetings on each of the main focus areas of the forum. These meetings are important opportunities to discuss and further develop issues of international relevance.


Students in Saudi Arabia urged to book COVID-19 vaccine appointments

Students can access the vaccine appointment service via the Sehhaty or Tawakkalna apps. (SPA)
Students can access the vaccine appointment service via the Sehhaty or Tawakkalna apps. (SPA)
Updated 04 August 2021

Students in Saudi Arabia urged to book COVID-19 vaccine appointments

Students can access the vaccine appointment service via the Sehhaty or Tawakkalna apps. (SPA)
  • Only fully jabbed pupils allowed to return to the classroom

JEDDAH: Students aged 12-18 are being urged to book their first COVID-19 jab, with the Ministry of Health saying that appointments were available for them.

The appointment allocation follows the Kingdom’s announcement that only fully jabbed pupils could return to the classroom when the new school year begins.
Students must receive the first shot before Aug. 8 in order to have the second before the first semester of the new academic year. The specified period between the two doses is three weeks.
They can access the appointment service through the Sehhaty or Tawakkalna apps.
The ministry also said that a quarter of the Kingdom’s population was fully vaccinated. The total number of people who have been jabbed in the country is 28,033,852, including 1,488,193 who are elderly.

FASTFACTS

• Saudi Arabia reported 1,075 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday.

• The death toll has risen to 8,270 following 11 more virus-related fatalities.

Saudi Arabia on Tuesday reported 11 more COVID-19-related deaths, taking the death toll to 8,270. There were 1,075 new cases reported, increasing the total number of infections to 528,952. There are 10,575 active cases, of which 1,433 are critical.
Of the newly recorded cases, 209 were in Makkah, 188 were in the Eastern Province, 184 were in Riyadh, and 70 were in Madinah. There have been a further 1,113 recoveries, bringing this total to 510,107.
Saudi Arabia has so far conducted more 25.33 million PCR tests, with 110,254 carried out in the past 24 hours.
Testing hubs and treatment centers throughout the country have dealt with hundreds of thousands of people since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.
Taakad centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or only mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual. Tetamman clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms such as fever, loss of taste and smell, and breathing difficulties.
Appointments for both services can be made on Sehhaty.
In Hafr Al-Batin governorate, Tetamman clinics have provided services to 75,310 people so far through three clinics: Hafr Al-Batin Central Hospital, Qaisumah General Hospital, and the Abu Mousa Alashari Health Center.


Efforts to fight global terrorism discussed

Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Nayef Falah al-Hajraf gestures during a news conference at the Gulf Cooperation Council's (GCC) 41st Summit in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia January 5, 2021. (REUTERS)
Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Nayef Falah al-Hajraf gestures during a news conference at the Gulf Cooperation Council's (GCC) 41st Summit in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia January 5, 2021. (REUTERS)
Updated 04 August 2021

Efforts to fight global terrorism discussed

Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Nayef Falah al-Hajraf gestures during a news conference at the Gulf Cooperation Council's (GCC) 41st Summit in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia January 5, 2021. (REUTERS)
  • The council focuses on enhancing capacities of member states and private organizations in preventing and mitigating the misuse of technological developments by terrorists and extremists

RIYADH: Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajjraf, secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), met with Jehangir Khan, director of the UN Counter-Terrorism Center (UNCCT).
During the meeting, they reviewed the efforts of the GCC in combating terrorism.
Al-Hajjraf affirmed the council’s continuous support for the UN in combating crimes of terrorism and extremism, in addition to strengthening their cooperation while achieving security and peace in the world.
A day earlier, Khan met with Dr. Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Rabeeah, adviser at the Royal Court and supervisor general of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief).
The UN Security Council has adopted additional resolutions, often under Chapter VII, to address new avenues of terrorist financing, including by targeting the nexus between terrorists and organized crime groups and tackling fundraising through kidnapping for ransom.
The council focuses on enhancing capacities of member states and private organizations in preventing and mitigating the misuse of technological developments by terrorists and extremists.