Though Qatar organizations spend a countless number of hours and dollars helping people abroad, there is also a lot of work to be done closer to home.
Enter the “Reach Into Qatar” project, an effort to overhaul local houses that have fallen into disrepair.
The endeavor is organized by Qatar Foundation’s Reach Out To Asia (ROTA) charity, which does about four home makeovers a year.
Each project takes about 30 volunteers who spend weekends and other free time as they are able to.
One longtime volunteer is Ahmed Allenjawi, a Qatari government employee who has spent many hours stripping wallpaper, painting walls and clearing out homes across the country.
Speaking to Doha News, he recalled recently helping to modernize the home of an elderly Qatari woman in her 80s who had not family to take care of her.
There, a team of expert tradesmen and volunteers worked for weeks to update the bathrooms and kitchen, paint the walls, decorate and conduct some general repairs. Appliances were also installed.
Allenjawi said the renovation of the elderly woman’s home was a particularly rewarding project for him.
“She saw people from her own country helping her. That makes her happy and very proud.”
To qualify for a makeover, home owners must apply for Reach Into Qatar and are assessed by need.
Once a venue is chosen, a team from the charity visits the home and creates a plan of necessary works, a budget and a timeline.
In the past year, homes in Al Saliyah, Muaither, Al Wakrah and Kharaitiyat have all been transformed as part of the program, which is now in its third year.
The costs of the house renovations have been met by the government’s Social and Sports Activities Support Fund (Da’am), while Gulf Contracting Company provides expertise and materials.
For Allenjawi, who works in international cooperation for the Ministry of Economy and Commerce (MEC), volunteering is a small way of giving back to his community.
The 26-year-old started working with charities following the death of his twin brother three years ago.
“That made me look at life in a different way,” recalled Allenjawi, who was studying in Florida at the time.
“When I went to Mexico, I had the chance to do some volunteering work for the first time in my life and when I returned to Qatar at the end of 2014 I knew I wanted to keep volunteering,” he said.
He joined ROTA and traveled to Indonesia last year to rebuild schools and teach English, IT and first aid in a joint project with the College of the North Atlantic – Qatar.
Upon his return, he was asked to take part in ROTA’s domestic charity projects, and has worked on more than four homes so far, devoting many of his weekends to the renovations.
“We work Fridays and Saturdays, mostly, often from 7am. Volunteers spend whatever time they can on the site. I just do the jobs that need done. I would go every day if they needed me,” he said, adding:
“I spend about four weeks or so on one house, depending on what the owners need done. In the end, after we have finished and the owners see the work, they are speechless.
That’s the thing that keeps me going. When you see the smiles on their faces, you feel that you made the family happy, then that’s happiness for me. I can’t describe it,” he said.
In addition to ROTA’s international charity endeavors, it runs several local programs.
Two summers ago, volunteers for the non-profit organization renovated one of the oldest secondary schools in Qatar, the Bangladesh M.H.M School and College.
Funded by Occidental Petroleum Corp. Qatar (Oxy Qatar), the project included painting, decorating and refurbishing six kindergarten classrooms at the school in Abu Hamour.
Allenjawi said his motivation for the work came from a desire to help out his community, particularly for those members who hit hard times.
“This is the smallest thing I can give to my country. My country gives me a lot – education, healthcare, everything.”
He also urged others to give their time to help those in need.
“I want to see more people from my country getting involved with this kind of stuff (volunteering). Everybody wants to help each other.
We are very kind people in Doha who want to help, but people sometimes need direction to make that happen,” Allenjawi added.