Sunday 25 March 2018
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Blog - Zakah in Action

  • Zakah in the market place +

    THIS week the South African National Zakah Fund (SANZAF) is doing some brand re-positioning. As a community benefit organisation that has Read More
  • The art of living and giving +

    THE Prophet [saw] once told his Companions that Islam was not a Deen of monkism, of people remaining celibate, of Read More
  • Zakah and the anatomy of hope +

    Hope springs eternal in the human breastMan never is, but always to be blest… SO writes Alexander Pope, the famous Read More
  • Kanala: the roots of Cape Muslim charity +

    It was the spirit of 'kanala' that saw over 120 mosques built by the community in three hundred years. Photo Read More
  • Pondering on water +

    A FEW relaxing days spent in the picturesque countryside of the Western Cape got me to thinking about our biggest Read More
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Charity in a bag, showing care in small things

IT is a clear plastic bag with a slightly reinforced handle to take some extra weight. It is not unlike a high quality bag that should contain expensive perfume or toiletries, except that instead of a designer logo from a high range store, it has the green SANZAF imprint.

Indeed, the SANZAF Care Bag, as it is called, is something that will allow dignity in measures that the bag itself will not be able to contain. It is always humbling to realise that  it's the smallest of things that raise the broadest smiles and have the biggest impact.

The idea behind the Care Bag is that together with the usual food parcels - which SANZAF hands out by the thousands each year - recipients can also enjoy basic necessities like soap, toothpaste, sanitary towels, toilet rolls, toothbrushes and deodorants.

I would suggest that it is an indictment on our awareness of hunger when we think that feeding is its short-term solution. So often, what is needed - in addition to the necessary hand-out - is something that adds cheer, dignity and appreciation of one's humanity.

We often forget, I think, that cleanliness is often a huge issue for the impoverished, with access to running water a luxury, and toiletries an expense too far for the already stretched budget.

I saw this experience first-hand in Mogadishu in 2011, when hundreds of thousands of families - many buried on the way - had fled to the city from the parched countryside to escape a devastating famine. Most had trekked hundreds of kilometres in searing heat with only the clothes on their back.

I was travelling with an aid agency that was handing out food parcels and toiletry packs in the Somalian capital. I remember a woman opening one, and espying Nivea skin moisturiser. There were shrieks of joy and laughter as she showed it to those around her, joking that now she'd look "sexy".

It was microscopic moment amidst a massive human disaster, but it had lifted everybody's spirits, for this was a woman who'd seen half her family die on the side of road from starvation.

And just today, as I was writing this, there was a knock on my door. We get many people coming to our house asking for food, money and clothes - a constant reminder of the sea of poverty that surrounds us in South Africa.

But what caught my attention was that this person, a young man from one of our SADC countries where its president is aged and corrupt, wanted some washing powder. "I need to wash my clothes. You can't smell when you look for work," he said.

I gave him a few scoops in a packet and some food, and he departed with a smile. My charity had  cost me absolutely nothing - in fact I probably could have done a lot more - but for this young man the meal would pick him up for the day, and a few scoops of washing powder could mean a job.

It reminded me that as human beings we really have to be aware of those around us. Who knows what is going on behind the cheery faces? Because what we take for granted for ourselves, is often a game changer for others.

This is why projects such as SANZAF's Care Bag need our unstinting support. Being clean, smelling clean, enjoying access to sanitary pads and toothpaste should not be an exception to the rule. Cleanliness is a right, not a privilege.

Feeding someone is not just filling their stomach, but imbuing them with barakah and the active du'ah for something better, by allowing them the dignity to improve themselves. A Care Bag is the perfect start.

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