Charity officials and volunteers in Saudi Arabia are noting a significant increase in public participation in social work around the kingdom, as well as enhanced co-ordination between the government and aid organisations.
Social work is particularly active during the holy month of Ramadan -- a time when humanitarian and religious motives converge -- and many youths either join major charitable organisations or form temporary groups to collect and distribute aid to the needy and poor.
Majid al-Mutairi, director of volunteer campaigns at Al-Muwasat Charitable Organisation, told Al-Shorfa there are 630 officially registered charitable organisations, spread across all regions of the kingdom.
Youth service "has seen significant growth in recent years with the rise in the organisations' need for labour", said al-Mutairi. "The work they perform includes the collection and disbursement of zakat to eligible recipients, in addition to preparing and serving iftar to fasters in dedicated centres, in the streets, or near traffic signals."
During Ramadan, Al-Muwasat's focus is on distributing food to help families with expenses and hosting iftar at halls in poor areas, al-Mutairi said.
He added that the organisation serves over 1,200 iftar meals to the needy.
"Ramadan is a month of blessings in which contributions increase several fold. Donations collected by organisations in Ramadan alone total more than two billion riyals ($5.3 million)," al-Mutairi said.
"The resources of these organisations consist of annual governmental support in addition to private monetary and in-kind donations, such as household furniture and clothing," he added.
During the rest of the year, Al-Muwasat disburses collected cash donations, zakat money and supplies to a specific number of needy families. The organisation also performs a variety of support activities such as shelter care programmes, social services, and rehabilitation and training programmes for individuals and families, he said.
There is also constant co-ordination between charitable organisations to ensure that no recipients receive aid from multiple organizations, al-Mutairi said.
The organisations' income is monitored by a specialised department at the Ministry of Social Affairs to guard against any waste or outflow of funds to suspicious third parties, such as terrorist groups, he said.
Another notable campaign this year is "Hayya Nala'ab Sawa (Let's Play Together)", which aims to collect toys and gifts for poor children and orphans.
Sponsored and supported by the "Friends of Society Charitable Organisation" and operating under the supervision of the Saudi Centre for Studies and Media, the campaign has some 200 volunteers of various ages working at seven collection centres around a number of commercial markets.
"The campaign is in its second consecutive year and expanded its area of activity to include Jeddah, having been previously limited to Mecca," said journalist and campaign organiser Jamal Banoun.
Next year, the campaign will expand to Riyadh and venture outside the kingdom to Dubai, he added.
"I hope to have the campaign visit the refugee camps in Turkey to donate toys and gifts to displaced Syrian children," Banoun said, adding that the organisation will require support from businessmen and international relief organisations in order to be successful.
Meanwhile, Yasser al-Shamrani, a 22-year-old law student at King Abdul Aziz University and a charity campaign official in Jeddah, said he and a group of university students launched their campaign to help foreign national workers living under very difficult economic conditions.
According to al-Shamrani, he and his colleagues monitored the number of foreign workers in their area and "compiled lists of their names".
"After consultations with the area's residents, an agreement was reached to serve iftar meals to these workers from food collected from local homes," he told Al-Shorfa.
Al-Shamrani's campaign has flatly refused to receive any cash from residents to buy and distribute food, "because we do not want to enter the labyrinths of fundraising and the problems that accompany it," he said.
"The campaign was particularly embraced by local residents, and 100 iftar meals were distributed daily," he said. "The workers were divided into two groups based on where they live, and two halls were prepared to receive them on a daily basis and serve them hot meals that include milk, dates, juices, pastries, and a variety of dishes."