x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Dar Al Ber making sure your charity goes where it’s needed

More on UAE and charity: Oldest foundation, named by Forbes as Arab World's most transparent, pleads with UAE's generous residents not to give to beggars.

Volunteers with children before a show as part of the third Arab Orphan Day Ceremony held by Dar Al Ber Society in Dubai in April. Sarah Dea / The National
Volunteers with children before a show as part of the third Arab Orphan Day Ceremony held by Dar Al Ber Society in Dubai in April. Sarah Dea / The National

DUBAI // The UAE's oldest charity organisation is urging the public not to give money to beggars this Ramadan.

Dar Al Ber Society wants residents to contact it if they see people claiming to be in need, so it can assess the situation.

Salem bin Ali, a government worker who lives in Rashidiya, said he saw many beggars in Ramadan and could not help but feel guilty.

"You can't go to the mosque without running into half a dozen beggars at least," said Mr bin Ali.

"I know that many of them take advantage of the holy month but you can't help but think, 'what if this person is truly in need?'

"It is difficult to turn them away. Your conscience keeps nagging at you. I end up giving them what I can and say to myself that how he spends the money is now between him and God."

Mohammed Al Hammadi, a board member and head of the charitable projects division at the society, said begging was illegal.

"What we are doing is trying to protect both parties," Mr Al Hammadi said. "We can study the matter and, if they really do need help, we can then provide it to them and you can also send you donations to them through us. We will ensure that your money is going to them."

Workers at Dar Al Ber, which protects orphans, widows and vulnerable families, conduct simple interviews with those asking for aid.

"Once we are sure they need aid we will open a file for them and ensure they are taken care of, not just during Ramadan but for as long as they need it," Mr Al Hammadi said.

He said residents needed to be wary during the holy month.

"Every Ramadan we have what we call charity tourism in Dubai. People come from all over the region for the sake of begging.

"Some of them are truly in need and it is those we want to protect and help, but many are just here to make extra money. They are not poor or in need of it."

The society has budgeted Dh3 million to help 58,000 people this Ramadan. It will spend another Dh2.1m to help 178,500 people in 26 countries around the world.

"This is just a target we have set. I'm sure we are going to exceed that," said Mr Al Hammadi. He said the charity spent more than 80 per cent of its budget during Ramadan.

Dar Al Ber will also supply basic food items such as flour, rice, sugar and oil to more than 3,300 families living in rural areas of the country.

Established in 1978, the charity is making strides to move with the times, as advised by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.

"We took Sheikh Mohammed's instructions to move Dubai to smart governments and applied it to ourselves as well," said Mr Al Hammadi.

It is working on smartphone applications that will allow people to donate through their phone bill.

"We hope to have the first phase of these application available by Ramadan next year," he said.

"The application will allow you to donate to any sector you like and even monitor the status of children you are sponsoring."

The society's commitment to making all budgets available to the public resulted in Forbes magazine naming it 2011's best charitable organisation in the Arab World for transparency.

"Our aim is to make sure that people know that their donations are being used fruitfully and responsibly," said Mr Al Hammadi.

The society has 46 offices in 26 countries around the world.

"I'm proud to say that we have never had a single office shut down by any government," said Mr Al Hammadi.

"We operate as per their needs. If they only want us to build mosques, that's what we do.

"If they want schools and water wells and other projects, we can do that too."