By Fatima Muhammad
and Naheel AbdullahSaudi Gazette JEDDAH
– A number of charities in the Kingdom have gotten creative by holding activities and competitions they hope will inspire contributions from donors. The Al-Ihsan Charity Organization last week held a photography contest to capture the Arbita (houses for the poor) in Jeddah.
On the occasion, Saudi Gazette joined a group of photographers who came from various regions and districts inside the Arbita in Old Jeddah including the Arbita of Al-Khafji, Al-Dheeb and Al-Maghrabi.
The photographers focused their lenses to take pictures that captured the lives of the inhabitants who are mostly old men and women. A woman resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they lived as a family and shared feelings of sadness and joy. She said new arrivals are always sad at being dumped by their families but they eventually begin to enjoy their time.
“When a new arrival has shed all of her tears and has had enough silence, she will gradually get used to her new surroundings and open up by telling everyone her story,” she said.
Many of the women said they eagerly await the month of Ramadan because it means more visitors for them.
“We feel exulted by these visits. It is a source of complete joy when we sit down and talk with these young men and women,” said one resident who did not want her name to be published.
Fatima Baazem, a photographer who is in charge of the competition, said the aim of photographing the Arbita was to raise public awareness and highlight the importance of community service.
“A picture can deliver the message more eloquently than the word. The pictures will be printed in a book to be issued by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities. Financial awards will be given to photographers of the best three pictures, which will be sold in a public auction. The funds raised from the auction will finance maintenance and repair work of the Arbita,” she said.
“The photographers are documenting our heritage. The pictures will also be used in a documentary film about the Arbita and will be used in exhibitions,” she added.
Zaki Hassanain, director of Benchmark for Public Relations and Marketing, said his company has signed an agreement with Al-Ihsan to develop its social work activities and raise public awareness about its role as a non-profit welfare society. Under the agreement, Hassanain said his company will also organize sports and social activities for the organization with an aim of raising donations.
Hassanain added that the organization has more than 60 homes for the poor which all need repair and maintenance work. According to him, over 4,700 old and sick men and women are currently living in the Arbita.
Director of HR at the organization Talal Abu Safiyyah said the repairs will not alter the façade of the Arbita so as to preserve their historic look. “We will revamp them from the inside only,” he explained.
Abu Safiyyah said the Arbita will be reconstructed to ensure every inhabitant has a small room with a kitchen and bathroom.
Abu Safiyyah said the Ministry of Social Affairs was asked about 45 days ago to prepare alternative homes for the old until the Arbita can be repaired but they had not heard back from them.
“We also suffer from the lack of cooperation by hospitals and clinics who are not willing to give us discounts for the treatment of the old,” he said.