Volunteerism in Saudi Arabia: A way to give back to the community

Volunteering is all about helping others selflessly as it gives his life a bigger purpose. (Supplied)
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Volunteering is all about helping others selflessly as it gives his life a bigger purpose. (Supplied)
Volunteering is all about helping others selflessly as it gives his life a bigger purpose. (SPA)
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Volunteering is all about helping others selflessly as it gives his life a bigger purpose. (SPA)
Volunteerism in Saudi Arabia: A way to give back to the community
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Volunteering is all about helping others selflessly as it gives his life a bigger purpose. (SPA)
Volunteerism in Saudi Arabia: A way to give back to the community
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Volunteering is all about helping others selflessly as it gives his life a bigger purpose. (SPA)
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Updated 06 December 2021

Volunteerism in Saudi Arabia: A way to give back to the community

Volunteering is all about helping others selflessly as it gives his life a bigger purpose. (Supplied)
  • Saudi Arabia using culture of charity in Vision 2030 goal of 1 million volunteers by 2030

JEDDAH: On Dec. 5, the world marked International Volunteer Day to celebrate people who dedicate time and effort in order to help others.

International Volunteer Day was mandated by the UN General Assembly in 1985. It offers an opportunity for volunteer organizations and individuals to promote volunteerism, encourage governments to support volunteer efforts and recognize volunteer contributions to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals at the local, national and international levels.

The number of volunteers in Saudi Arabia now stands at more than 200,000, and is expected to reach 1 million by 2030, in line with Saudi goals.

Volunteering comes from the recognition and realization of a situation that needs to be fixed, whether it affects humans, animals or nature as a whole.

Saeed Azhar, founder and chairman of Humans Come First, a Saudi volunteering and charity organization based in Jeddah, focuses on building a healthy society by conducting independent charitable campaigns and cooperating with the emerging community, to meet the needs of the less fortunate.




Saeed Azhar

Azhar has been involved in volunteer work since 2013. He told Arab News that volunteering is all about helping others selflessly as it “gives his life a bigger purpose.”
He said that the concept of volunteerism has been always there in the Saudi community, and it is part of the Saudi culture presented in different forms. However, “energies of the society need to be activated properly,” he added.

“I should give back as much as I take, to empower volunteers, empower talents, create future leaders and help those in need. I believe that Allah has chosen us to be the contact point between the poor and rich people.”

Azhar and his team, which includes 200 members, 35 volunteering campaigns and more than 7,000 volunteers from around the Kingdom, completed 27,334 hours of volunteering and served 5 million beneficiaries between 2018 and 2020.

“We are serving about 10 cities in Saudi Arabia. More than 7,000 volunteers participate with us. We have around 200 active members all around the Kingdom. We have happily and proudly improved hundreds and thousands of lives, locally and internationally,” he said.

“Today, we are working with all sectors including nonprofit organizations, government and private sectors.” This will help to create dozens of opportunities for the youth to experience volunteering in Saudi Arabia, Azhar said.

His vision is to serve humanity with several initiatives to improve lives around the globe. “International Volunteer Day is actually the same everywhere: The gift of giving has no barriers, religions, color or nationality. We are all humans, and humans come first.”

Volunteering in community health services
An award for health volunteering was launched in 2018 to shed the light on the heroes and organizations who implement outstanding volunteer health resources in the Kingdom.

As a response to the COVID-19 crisis, 27-year-old Saudi laboratory technician Asrar Al-Shumrani, who works a the Ministry of National Guard — Health Affairs in Riyadh, served during the pandemic at a blood donation center. “It was not easy,” he said.

He added: “We used to go out to work during the darkest times of the curfew, and we were dealing with infected people.”

Working in the medical sector is one of the “purest volunteering forms” as it keeps the community safe and healthy, he said. “Despite the shocking situations and news of lives that have been lost during the pandemic, harnessing our knowledge and our time into saving what could be saved was an honor.”

It is worth mentioning that in 2019, Saudi Arabia launched a health volunteering platform. It enables citizens and residents to volunteer and attend training programs to receive training certificates. It also enables them to take part in volunteering across the Kingdom and be awarded authenticated volunteering hours, all through a single and simple electronic portal.

Enjad: Volunteering to rescue vehicles stuck in the desert
The Saudi Civil Defense helps rescue civilians in city disasters. Enjad is a nonprofit organization that also helps by using a well-equipped and experienced Saudi team to rescue vehicles stuck in deserts around the Kingdom.

Ali Aligi, Enjad representative, told Arab News that the nonprofit aims to save lives and property in coordination with authorities, including Civil Defense.

“As soon as we receive a call, our team immediately swings into action by sending volunteers from the association to search for the missing and preserve their vehicles during rainy seasons and trekking seasons by releasing vehicles stuck in the mud,” Aligi said.

Enjad raises awareness of the risks of driving during floods and heavy rain.
It also works to present the Saudi identity in a distinctive way, and highlights the role of social solidarity among its members.

In 2021, more than 40,000 cases were dealt with through Enjad services. “Our mission continues to handle all cases of vehicle loss and suspension. I believe that the association’s goal is not only to save lives, raise awareness, preserve property and more, but to also activate volunteer work,” Aligi said.

“Most campaigns and volunteer programs have short-term goals, Enjad on the other hand stems from a continuous need,” he added.

“The community is the one who serves the community. It is not just one party, but several parties.”

To volunteer with Enjad, it is necessary to have an off-road vehicle and the appropriate tools to save a vehicle stuck in sand or mud. “There is a large group of society who possess tools and skills, but they use it only for personal needs. However, such skilled members of society would be a perfect fit to serve the community and rescue many cases from around the Kingdom.”

On the occasion of International Volunteer Day, Aligi said: “Volunteering is all about giving support and sacrificing your time for a better world, thus it must be integrated institutional community work.”


King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language implements project to strengthen language policies

King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language implements project to strengthen language policies
Updated 17 January 2022

King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language implements project to strengthen language policies

King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language implements project to strengthen language policies
  • The project aims to train more than 1,000 employees in 20 ministries and government agencies, through 40 training courses

RIYADH: The King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language has implemented a draft language policy guide for Saudi government institutions.
The move aims to activate decisions related to the language within government bodies, and to develop awareness among workers of the importance of linguistics and its connection to decisions and regulations at various levels.
It also aims to provide procedural steps and an executive working guide that preserves the Arabic language’s position in government institutions, the academy said in a statement.
The project aligns with the academy’s strategic goals, preserving the integrity of Arabic and supporting it verbally and in writing, and developing policies, strategies, plans and programs.
It includes a review of the Saudi language policy, based on various regulations and legislation, and also includes an executive guide for language editing in government institutions.
The project is one of the initiatives of the Human Capacity Development Program, one of the programs of Vision 2030, and aims to train more than a thousand employees in 20 ministries and government agencies, through 40 training courses, focused on two main topics: Writing skills for administrators and the basic rules of Arabic writing.
The two topics were chosen based on a study of specific needs in functional language situations.
The first training courses for the project have already begun, and several were held in coordination with the ministries of culture, education, and Islamic affairs. Courses last for two days, with an average of eight training hours.


Investor interest in Saudi hotel sector is growing, so why are there so few rooms outside cities?

 According to Thamer Alrajeeb, the cornerstone of the development of hotel investment in Saudi Arabia’s various regions lies in facilitating the financing process for investors in the sector. (Supplied)
According to Thamer Alrajeeb, the cornerstone of the development of hotel investment in Saudi Arabia’s various regions lies in facilitating the financing process for investors in the sector. (Supplied)
Updated 16 January 2022

Investor interest in Saudi hotel sector is growing, so why are there so few rooms outside cities?

 According to Thamer Alrajeeb, the cornerstone of the development of hotel investment in Saudi Arabia’s various regions lies in facilitating the financing process for investors in the sector. (Supplied)
  • Hotel industry experts shed light on planning strategies, expansion portfolios and other challenges in the sector

RIYADH: In recent years, there has been a remarkable increase in the number of businesses whose owners are interested in investing in the hotel sector in Saudi Arabia. Yet at the same time, many observers continue to wonder why there are still so few hotels outside of the Kingdom’s major cities.

Amir Lababedi, Hilton’s managing director of development in the Middle East and North Africa, said: “Saudi Arabia represents our largest development pipeline in the Middle East, with plans to expand our presence to more than 75 hotels in the coming years.
“We plan to expand in locations across major primary and secondary cities across Saudi Arabia. We see potential for our mid-market Hampton by Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn brands, as well as for DoubleTree by Hilton and our lifestyle brand, Canopy by Hilton.”
Meanwhile, Radisson Hotel Group announced this week that it plans to expand its operations in Saudi Arabia and increase its investment portfolio in the Middle East to approximately half of its total investments by 2026.

There is a big demand for hotels classified as three or four stars. The local population, as well as visitors — pilgrims, tourists, and businessmen — prefers three- or four-star hotels as these are available all around and are very affordable for the general public. Commercially, their operating cost is lower and thus they generate more revenue than a five-star hotel.

Saleh Al-Habib, Executive director, Jiwar Real Estate Development

According to Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb: “Radisson Hotel Group’s commitment to developing new hotels in the Kingdom and opening a regional office in Riyadh is an effective contribution to strengthening the Kingdom’s steps to achieve its goal of receiving 100 million visitors by 2030.”
Mahmoud Al-Saeed, the general manager of Pereira Resorts in the Eastern Province, which is managed by Boudl Hotels and Resorts, said the company aims to cater to all sections of society.
“Given that a large segment of society prefers three-star hotels for their quality and reasonable prices, the company has created a chain of Aber hotels,” he said. “It launched the brand in 2018 to meet the needs of many with a group of modern hotels, in terms of design and concept, at affordable prices while ensuring high quality and professionalism in providing services.”

Dr. Saleh Al-Habib, executive director of Jiwar Real Estate Development

The three-star Aber hotels are “situated between hotel apartments and four-star hotels,” according to Al-Saeed. “The economic concept that Boudl is keen to present with this group of hotels has become an important matter for many travelers and those looking for a change in the usual lifestyle,” he added.
Boudl also owns the four-star Pereira hotels and the five-star Narcissus. Al-Saeed said the company has plans for expansion in major cities, and to increase the number of three-star hotels in a number of Saudi cities. These hotels are experiencing an influx of tourists from inside and outside the country, he added.
Al-Saeed, who has worked in the industry for nearly two decades, said that hotels currently face a number of challenges, particularly “in light of the precautions against COVID-19. These include the postponement of many events which usually take place in hotels and the cancellation of reservations for halls used for celebrations or official meetings, due to the coronavirus and its accompanying problems.”
He added that the authorities in Saudi Arabia are aware of the issues and are working to develop the hotel sector.

 Fadil Munakeal, manager of Jabal Omar Jumeirah in Makkah

Thamer Alrajeeb, a former member of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Tourism Accommodation Committee, said investment in the tourism sector in major cities is encouraging, particularly in Riyadh in support of the Saudi Entertainment Authority initiatives. It is not profitable in other cities, however, where operations are seasonal during a period of a few months each year, usually coinciding with school holidays or good weather.
“For the rest of the year, operation is a loss for the investor,” he said.

FASTFACT

Radisson Hotel Group announced this week that it plans to expand its operations in Saudi Arabia and increase its investment portfolio in the Middle East to approximately half of its total investments by 2026.

Alrajeeb described investing in hotels other than five-star establishments as “feasible.” He said the lower operational costs and prices are affordable to a wider range of guests but added that “many of the Ministry of Tourism’s requirements burden investors.”
He said it is possible to meet the needs of visitors with average levels of financial solvency, particularly outside the three cities of Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam. This can be done by investing in hotel suites in particular, which are characterized by low startup costs, “allowing for their rental prices to be more commensurate with the solvency of a wide range of travelers.”
The cornerstone of the development of hotel investment in Saudi Arabia’s various regions lies in facilitating the financing process for investors in the sector while fulfilling the Ministry of Tourism’s requirements, Alrajeeb said, adding that the focus should be on efforts that contribute to raising quality in the sector and meeting the needs of customers.
Fadil Munakeal, manager of the Jabal Omar Jumeirah hotel in Makkah, stressed the importance of providing products and services that correspond to a hotel’s star rating, which he said reflects positively on investment in the sector. He urged the Ministry of Tourism to continue its supervision and follow up efforts to achieve reliability in the sector and improve the image and perception of all types of hotels.
Munakeal, who is also a member of the Hotels Committee of the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, urged the owners of less expensive establishments, particularly in the three-star and lower categories, to invest in modern marketing techniques and direct them at particular target groups. They must also develop products and services that meet the needs of these target audiences, he added.
He said many domestic tourists, particularly families, prefer to stay in hotel apartments because they have a negative perception of some hotels with fewer than four stars.
Saleh Al-Habib, executive director of Jiwar Real Estate Development, said: “There is a big demand for hotels classified as three or four stars. The local population, as well as visitors — pilgrims, tourists, and businessmen — prefers three- or four-star hotels as these are available all around and are very affordable for the general public.
“Commercially, their operating cost is lower and thus they generate more revenue than a five-star hotel.
“This is a popular choice for almost all classes of society, especially the middle and lower-middle classes. The availability of such hotels and semi-luxurious apartments is numerous. With affordable tariffs, they meet the needs of families, business travelers, as well as those seeking leisure.”
Al-Habib, who is also a member of the Saudi Association for Tourist Accommodation Facilities, said that both locals and expatriates are interested in establishing hotels and furnished apartments in areas such as Abha, Al-Baha, Tabuk, Hafar Al-Batin, Al-Majma’ah and Al-Kharj.
“These interested entrepreneurs are working closely with the National Tourism Fund,” he added.


Saudi Arabia’s KAUST launches Science Festival at Thuwal Beach

Al-Khawarizmi Building in the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology campus, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock)
Al-Khawarizmi Building in the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology campus, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock)
Updated 17 January 2022

Saudi Arabia’s KAUST launches Science Festival at Thuwal Beach

Al-Khawarizmi Building in the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology campus, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock)
  • The festival includes an exhibition on the Red Sea coast to preview the area’s project to change the rules of sustainable tourism

JEDDAH: King Abdullah University of Science and Technology has launched its annual Science Festival for 2022, which will be held Jan. 20-21.

The festival, which will be held at Thuwal Beach in Jeddah, aims to inspire young talents in Saudi Arabia, the Middle East and North Africa region.

KAUST President Tony Chan said that the world is moving towards innovation as a basis for discovery and invention, and that there is an urgent need for young people to confront the most essential problems in global societies and participate in solving them.

He pointed out that KAUST has become prominent in science and technology in Saudi Arabia, quickly becoming an international platform to inspire and nurture young scientific minds to unleash the power of science and achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals.

“This is a very important occasion in the history of our events, as we are moving the site for the first time outside the walls of KAUST and expanding the program of events to allow the potential of our nation’s youth to move towards great scientific horizons and put Saudi Arabia on the map of innovation, technology and youth-led initiatives,” he said.

Chan stated that this year’s festival will feature a schedule including a variety of science fairs, daily evening science shows, science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics challenges for children, and science projects presented by KAUST students.

The festival also includes an exhibition on the Red Sea coast to preview the area’s project to change the rules of sustainable tourism.

The exhibition will feature whale sharks, shura trees, coral reefs, and marine simulation ponds. Other events will showcase some of the components currently available at KAUST, including the Core Lab, the Start-Up fair, the Museum of Failed Scientific Attempts, and interactive robots that will roam throughout the site.

Food and entertainment kiosks will be available throughout the festival period.

 


Saudi finance minister meets top EU official in Riyadh

Mohammed Al-Jadaan meets with Johannes Hahn in Riyadh. (Supplied)
Mohammed Al-Jadaan meets with Johannes Hahn in Riyadh. (Supplied)
Updated 17 January 2022

Saudi finance minister meets top EU official in Riyadh

Mohammed Al-Jadaan meets with Johannes Hahn in Riyadh. (Supplied)
  • They discussed enhancing financial cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the EU

RIYADH: Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan met European Commissioner for Budget and Administration Johannes Hahn at the ministry’s headquarters in Riyadh on Sunday.
During the meeting, they discussed enhancing financial cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the European Commission and the EU’s economic recovery plans and available investment opportunities.
The meeting was attended by a number of senior officials from the Ministry of Finance and the European Commission.

 


Saudi Arabia rolls out aid in Yemen, Afghanistan

The center distributed on Saturday 17 tons of aid. (SPA)
The center distributed on Saturday 17 tons of aid. (SPA)
Updated 17 January 2022

Saudi Arabia rolls out aid in Yemen, Afghanistan

The center distributed on Saturday 17 tons of aid. (SPA)
  • The project aims to distribute about 192,000 food baskets weighing more than 20,000 tons to impoverished families across 15 Yemeni governorates

HAJJAH: King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center mobile medical clinics have continued providing treatment services at the Waalan camp for displaced people in Yemen’s Hajjah Governorate.

In one week, clinics received 136 people with various health conditions. They were provided with medical services.

KSrelief also distributed more than 63 tons of food baskets in the Al-Mudhaffar district of Taiz Governorate, helping 4,039 people.

The project aims to distribute about 192,000 food baskets weighing more than 20,000 tons to impoverished families across 15 Yemeni governorates.

KSRelief is also distributing food and provide shelter to needy families in Afghanistan as part of the Saudi relief airlift dispatched by the center to support the Afghan people.

The center distributed on Saturday 17 tons of aid. It included 250 food baskets, 500 flour bags, 250 winter bags and 250 blankets in the Qala-e-Fathullah district of Kabul, helping 250 families.