One of the foundations of Islam is the giving of charity every year to those who are needy. I’ve been traditionally spreading out as far and wide as possible, however this year I’ve tried something different.
TL;DR give large amounts to less individuals, emphasis on those with an enterprising spirit.
In many Muslim communities you have those who are needy whom you usually pay Zakaat to. These tend to be the same people you know about every year who everybody else seems to give to; widows, orphans, the infirmed. However it seems that the amounts given are not enough to make a difference in their lives as they’re spread out ($50 here, another $100 there). Another issue is that in my social circles, I don’t know anybody personally with that level of poverty, usually giving to those known by family members.
I’m convinced that aid from beyond is not effective, and people in the communities themselves should determine who help goes to; therefore it would be better if we can create more people within various communities who may in turn pay Zakaat or even create employment, thus lifting several out of poverty. Sometimes it’s just a matter of helping to remove an individual from a debt trap that can allow them to redirect capital to better use.
For my first experiment, I started discussions with people whom I personally know and trust who are embedded in low income communities to identify those who come from families that have a history of being enterprising with a history of trying to make and maintain a living, and have started pulling themselves out of their condition, but slowly. The idea is to find people who have the right mindset but lacking capital. The contacts I have are local tradesmen who have a good grasp of what’s going on in their communities, less likely to have political agenda and understand what I’m talking about when I ask for enterprising people. Traditional aid tends to go via community leaders who I don’t think are as effective as identifying worthy recipients.
After discussions, we identified a family who has a history of opening up small stalls for selling goods as well as being generally hard working, frugal. A grant of a thousand dollars was given through my contacts, under strict condition of anonymity, to the family’s youngest daughter who was unemployed in order to open up a drink and food stand. The money was used to buy supplies as well as build an attractive stall.
It is too early to tell how this will go, but so far it has been deemed successful, with an ROI of less than two months and the recipient already using her income to diversify from drinks into food. This is remarkable considering annual median income for the province is only $1,500 dollars (55,000 baht) per year.
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