Volunteering is extremely important in keeping the community together and in creating a true partnership between the people, the business community, academia, non-governmental organizations and the Government.
However, it needs to become a natural part of our lives. We need to have training programs and drills, so we know instantly what to do and who to contact in situations of emergency or disaster. Such programs can be given in schools, colleges, businesses, ministries, and all types of institutes. Volunteering helps to build character and boosts confidence.
It took the calamity of the recent Jeddah floods to wake us up out of our stupor, and we should not permit ourselves to return to our previous somnolence. The torrential floods that swept through the city of Jeddah on November 25, 2009 demolished everything in its path at speeds exceeding 30 kilometers per hour. Nothing could withstand the sheer force of these floods: trucks, buses, cars, and people were equally swept along, through the streets, to a fate that proved to be deadly for so many. Walls came tumbling down; homes filled up so quickly that those inside drowned in just a few minutes; businesses and factories were ruined.
The scale of destruction was of such magnitude, that we are only now beginning to understand it. The scars left in the aftermath of this flood can still be seen, especially in many East Jeddah neighborhoods, such as in Guwaiza and Kilo 14.
The flood caused extensive damage to Zahid’s Truck Assembly, and other facilities in Kilo 14, carrying massive truck engines and components to distances of almost half a kilometer as if they were made of papier-mâché. Our offices were filled with water and mud, instantly rendering useless all computer systems, files, furniture, fittings, and other equipment. Watermarks reached over one meter, warping wooden desks and strewing documents and files all over the place. The flood did not spare our warehouse, where almost 50% of our massive spare parts inventory was destroyed.
In Kilo 5, the Zahid Housing Compound was badly damaged, drenching furniture, clothes, and ruining appliances. By the Mercy of Allah, no human casualties occurred.
A massive clean-up effort was immediately launched, first to take care of our employees, and second to bring our businesses back to as normal a condition as possible, to meet the needs of our clients. With the tremendous effort of everyone, we were able to return our operations to 85% of normality within 10 days.
At the same time, we were witness to what was happening to our city, community, and, especially, our neighbors. We at Zahid Group set up an initiative called “Al-Jar Lil-Jar” or “The Neighbor For The Neighbor”, to assist those in desperate need of help. We are most proud of our employees, who immediately signed up for this volunteer work.
Under this initiative, we started a clean-up effort in Kilo 14 and Guwaiza district, helping the flood victims there to rebuild their lives. Unblocking pipes and cleaning bathrooms and septic tanks using our teams of plumbers and engineers was one much appreciated effort. Mattresses, bed sheets, pillows, blankets, clothes, food, water, cleaning and other essential items, were obtained in quantity and distributed to the affected residents. Many of our friends and business associates in the neighborhood joined and added to these efforts.
There is still much to do in Guwaiza and Kilo 14, where more than 500 homes have been destroyed or substantially damaged. More volunteers to help in those areas are badly needed.
I was no less impressed by the spirit and energy of the Youth of Jeddah. They independently organized themselves, and began helping people by distributing very much-needed essentials to the victims in the worst hit areas. Men and women from every walk of life rolled up their sleeves and offered to help in anyway possible.
The Ministry of Social Affairs, and the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce & Industry formed the Coordinating Committee of Social Societies, chaired by Mazin Batterjee, which brought all the volunteering work under one umbrella, better focusing and organizing the relief efforts. The Committee needs all the help it can get.
We immediately answered their call, as others did. We provided trucks, trailers, fork-lifts and hand pallet trucks to work at the Exhibition Center, which became a bee-hive of activity. Water, powdered milk, cleaners, clothes, furniture and anything people donated to the victims were organized and distributed from there.
Many of the roads, especially in the University District, were blocked with mud, water, debris, and vehicle carcasses, preventing access to many victims’ homes. In cooperation with the Women Charitable Organization, we provided bulldozers, wheel loaders, and dumpsters, to clear up the roads in that residential area.
In Al-Ghulail area, near Kilo 5, we provided additional wheel loaders and dumpsters to help in the clean up process.
The culture of volunteering is an essential part of any civilization, and our religious tenets urge us to cooperate to do good for mankind. The calamity of the recent Jeddah Floods opened the eyes of many to the positive effects of such volunteer work. It is our communal duty to encourage this spirit of social service, to continue both in good times and in bad.
Amr M Khashoggi,
VP Corporate Affairs,
Zahid Group of Companies