Local Time

Monday, December 06, 2004

12 tips for teens on how to help the poor and needy

What can you, a teenager who doesn't have a lot of money or resources,

do to help the poor and needy?

More than you think. Most young adults are blessed with the creativity
and intelligence to find ways to help others despite limited resources.
Here are some tips that can perhaps start the creative process:

1. Give a portion of your allowance each week to a poor and needy
person or a cause in support of them

How much is your allowance or your salary from your part-time job? Not
much, you might say. The great thing about giving though is that in
about 99 percent of cases, you are not restricted to how much you can give
to help the poor and needy.

That means for instance, instead of dishing out a dollar a day for a
can of soda from the vending machine at school or work, maybe you can
save this money two days of the week. Then give this money to the Zakat
and Sadaqa committee of your mosque, a poor person you know in your
neighborhood, a local soup kitchen or to a worthy cause abroad.

2. Encourage your parents to pay Zakat

Zakat is something too many Muslims neglect. If you are eligible to
give Zakat, you must pay. If you aren't eligible, ask your parents about
Zakat and if they pay, how and to whom. If they do not give Zakat,
respectfully and politely emphasize to them the importance of this necessary
pillar of Islam and encourage them to start paying it. Use wisdom and
beautiful preaching.

3. Encourage a family Sadaqa (charity) project

Get the whole family to pitch in at least once a month to a worthy
cause by organizing a family Sadaqa project. Call a family meeting (if
you've never had one of these, this is a great time to start) and discuss
your idea. Then come to an agreement on how everyone can help the poor.
Whether it's contributing a set amount a week as a group with Dad
giving the money to the Masjid after Friday prayers or setting up a box
somewhere in the house where family members can privately donate, you all
decide.

4. Talk about it in your youth group

What are the first steps in finding solutions to problems? Dua
(supplication) then brainstorming and discussion.

At your next youth group meeting, put the difficulties of the poor and
needy in your community on the agenda. Simply discuss and brainstorm.
You don't have to come up with a plan all at once. But discussing this
will start the process and keep it in people's minds.

If you don't have a youth group, get your friends together. Instead of
having the usual hang out time one day, substitute this with a formal
meeting. Now you have a youth group that can do this exercise.

5. Visit a poor part of town

How many big cities have "poor quarters"? Almost every single one.
Sometimes, we need to see the reality of poverty right in front of us to
really believe it's there, especially if we live in a financially
well-off part of a city.

Go with your youth group to visit these areas. You don't have to
necessarily bring money or food for them (although that wouldn't be a bad
idea). Talk to the people, if they are willing to be approached, about
living conditions and how they ended up there. Prepare yourself for an
eye-opening experience.

6. Do a class presentation on poverty

Stumped about what to do for a school assignment? Why not talk about
the plight of the poor in your community. Do your research thoroughly.
Get statistics on poverty, real stories from books and perhaps even
video- or audiotaped interviews of the poor and homeless. Show the human
face of poverty. Follow the presentation up with a class collection for
the poor.

7. Don't just collect money

There are plenty of basic necessities that people have to meet. Some
people can't afford new shoes. So hold a shoe drive (some teens have
already done this - read this link about it). Others cannot afford
clothing. Hold a clothing drive. Collect the material, arrange for cars, vans
or trucks to transport it to where it's needed, then make sure the
material is properly distributed.

8. Write about poverty in your school paper

Have you got a knack for writing? Then write about poverty in your
school newspaper. Educate your student body not just with words, but photos
too, if possible. If you've visited a poor part of the city (see tips
above), then you have plenty of material and personal material to write
about.

9. Write about Zakat and Sadaqa in your Masjid newsletter

Does your Masjid have a newsletter? If so, dedicate the next issue to
the topic of Zakat and Sadaqa and how they help the poor and the needy.
You can interview an Imam to get the basics straight. You can also
include various charitable causes readers can give their money to locally
to help the poor and needy.

If you don't have a Muslim youth newsletter, maybe this can be your
premiere edition.

10. Put the information on a website

If you put the above-mentioned newsletter or at least some of the
articles online, you 'll probably have more young people reading it than if
you limited the information to print only.

11. Collect money in your group

After your next group meeting, pass around a box to collect donations
for the poor and needy. Better yet, make this a weekly practice. Make
one person responsible for collecting the money and sending it off after
consulting everyone on which cause it should be sent for.

12. Organize a youth seminar on poverty

Get a youth-friendly Imam or speaker to come and talk about how Islam
has successfully fought against poverty in the past and can continue to
do so in the present. Then, after his lecture, hold a workshop with
participants and come up with 21 ideas of how the audience and Muslim
teens in general can help fight poverty in America and abroad Islamically.

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