KT For Good: Volunteers pay off debts of struggling families
In the lead-up to the grand ceremony on February 20 when the Arab world declares its hope maker, we will celebrate the stories of optimism and positivity these unsung heroes have lived.
Umm Mohammed, a single mother of four, woke up one day to find her credit at a nearby grocery store paid off. She had accumulated a credit of 1,600 dinars (about Dh8,300) as she helmed her family after her husband passed away years ago.
Hailing from the Dieban district, one of Jordan's severely disadvantaged areas, Umm Mohammed is among thousands of low-income Jordanians burdened with debts. The government estimates that about one million people in Jordan live in dire conditions with no means to meet their basic needs.
A team of 500 young volunteers decided to step in by launching a unique initiative called 'Safhatuk Baida' (your records are clear) to ease the financial burden on vulnerable families. Members of the team are spread across different villages and provinces around Jordan where they visit bakeries, pharmacies and groceries to pay off the debts of hundreds of disadvantaged families.
The volunteers rely on neighbourhood residents to point them to genuine cases.
They then head to different shops to ask about the list of debtors from underprivileged families before covering the outstanding amount without a set budget limit.
Saeed Al Faidi, one of the volunteers, said the initiative started during the holy month of Ramadan of 2018 when many families could not afford enough grocery items to open their fast.
"School and college students came together to brainstorm and find ways to help vulnerable families during the holy month. We decided to abandon the conventional ways of donations and anonymously pay off debts of families in slums and disadvantaged neighbourhoods across the country," said Al Faidi.
The group collaborated with the Bab Al Khair Charity Association to utilise Zakat (mandatory alms given by Muslims annually) in paying off the families' debts.
Al Faidi said the credit accumulation itself reflects a true story of hope and compassion. "Many shopkeepers and grocery store owners have thousands of dinars on their records yet to be paid, yet they never ask for it or stop supplying their products to vulnerable families."
He stated that some debts prolong for years with no payment. "The patience on both sides is inspiring: You see families unable to pay their debts and shop owners refraining from asking for it."
In its first round, the initiative succeeded in paying off the debts of 150 families.
Last year, it reached up to 250 beneficiaries. "The most beautiful feeling in the world is seeing the reaction of families when they realise their debts had been paid off," Al Faidi said. "Most of the families have relatively small amounts of debts, which prevents them from purchasing their basic necessities, especially during Ramadan. It does not require huge efforts or donations to make them happy," he said.
Volunteers aim to turn the initiative to a sustainable year-long campaign, calling on the community to contribute. "We see an increase in donations during Ramadan specifically, but if there is enough funding throughout the year, we will be able to benefit more families in the country."
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