Initiatives in the Gulf to make positive change and help the disadvantaged are many, but Young Initiative Group (YIG) had something about it that particularly caught our attention. Instead of narrating the situation of those disadvantaged to you and trying to convince you of the value your donation will bring, these guys invite you to come on board with them to see those who are disadvantaged that people speak of; to meet them, connect with them and help them yourselves.

In addition to helping poorer communities in Jeddah to stand on their feet, YIG touches a greater issue that the Arab world currently and traditionally faces: the lack of connection and communication between poorer communities and communities that are more advantaged.

Yet even more, when I say ‘come on board’, I mean it literally. All you need is a willingness and passion to lend a helping hand to poorer people and you’re welcome to any of YIG’s board meetings where your ideas are as welcome as those of the founders.

To find out more about the stuff inspiring them, we got in touch with the Chairman and co-founder of YIG, Muhammad Al-Bakri.

How did the idea of starting YIG come to you? What particularly inspired you?

The idea was suggested in a comment on one of Maha Taher's statuses on Facebook. She had just gotten married and moved to Jeddah from Riyadh. She wanted to start a number of clubs so she can start making the most out of her time in Jeddah. It was then when I suggested that she starts a social welfare club. In June 2010, Maha and Reem, other fellow YIG members, took one initiative after another and the team has been growing in number and talents ever since.

Your work and activities have been showcased in a good number of leading newspapers in Saudi Arabia and the GCC. What is it about YIG that you think caught the public and media attention?

The media is hungry for positive news. We believe our work showcases the positivity that is inherent in our society and that people like to be reminded of. Also, our reliance on social media tools and how hyper connected we as young members of our society are, helped us in being noticed and so garnering more support from our community.

Your initiatives seem to be active responses to the main challenges faced by Jeddah and KSA. How do you identify where these initiatives should be?

Our initiatives are divided into three main areas:

  1. Immediate impact initiatives that are mainly characterized by providing basic needs such as food and shelter
  2. Long term initiatives that are focused on tackling root causes
  3. Seasons based initiatives such as our Iftar Sayem campaign.

Our main focus however, remains to be the fostering and promoting of sincere and professional volunteerism in Jeddah. An aware and empowered volunteer is equipped to apply his/her skills in any area they wish to do so.

YIG highly depends on youth volunteers which is great, but how do you ensure that you get the sufficient commitment from them that is needed to satisfy these really important issues you’re tackling?

We depend on a core team which is made of highly committed members. We also ensure to keep new blood flowing which is made of highly committed members. We also ensure that new blood keeps flowing into YIG regularly to maintain a fresh and dynamic atmosphere. Also, connecting with volunteers and updating them as well as making them feel appreciated are all key to maintaining an engaged volunteering pool.

Also, explaining to volunteers the causes we work on and how their individual effort contributes to the alleviation of other peoples’ suffering helps volunteers in connecting the dots between their efforts and its impact.

I don’t just see a charity organization at YIG, but also an initiative that has encouraged volunteering work and has integrated the idea of youth taking initiative themselves to reach out to the poor, rather than to just, for instance, donate the change in their pockets to charities. In a society like that of the GCC and the Arab world in general where the culture of volunteering is arguably yet developing, how do you manage to get so many enthusiastic volunteers on board?

First and foremost, it is all due to the blessings of Allah and his Divine guidance. Volunteering and doing good are at the root of Islam. As Muslims and as human beings we all share a duty and obligation to add value to our communities and its inhabitants. Each person has their own unique set of skills and gifts which only they can offer their society. Giving is not just giving money away. If I don't have money to give, I have my time, my knowledge, my kindness and my smile!

We believe that we as individuals are blessed with so much; starting from a sheltered home, to high quality education. We owe it to our community to share with everyone our blessings and share the knowledge, wealth and smiles!

With the great publicity of your initiative, you’re truly opening a new door for connecting youth in more advantaged communities based in Jeddah with the poor communities in their city.  How do you plan on taking what you have established further and building on this initiative?

Our ultimate aim when it comes to inhabitants of disenfranchised communities in Jeddah is to create bread winners. Fire fighting style of charity alleviates immediate suffering but fails to be a long term solution. We want to see each individual capable of earning a decent living. A starving person cares not about being green or being healthy, but about their next meal and whether or not his parents will be able to get the next box of diabetes medication.

For more information on the Young Initiative Group (YIG) and how to volunteer, check out their website.

– Khamael Al Safi

Image Credits: The Young Initiative Group (YIG)


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