The holy month of Ramadan started just over a week ago. In Indonesia, a country in which more than 85 percent of the people are Muslim, the change in atmosphere is hard to miss.
Muslims wake up at dawn to prepare for sahur , the pre-dawn meal, with their families. Most schools and offices cut their hours so that students and workers can rush home to break the fast with their families at dusk. A sense of togetherness prevails.
Ramadan is also a month of giving. People feel more generous and are ready to give back during the holy month.
“There’s a widespread joy and excitement during the holy month,” said Yayan Rukmana, the person in charge of the Ramadan programs at the Dompet Dhuafa (Wallet of the Less Fortunate) foundation. “People are more inclined to help and care for others.”
Dompet Dhuafa is a nonprofit foundation established by a group of journalists in Jakarta in 1993 to collect zakat, obligatory Islamic alms, similar to tithes in Christianity, to donate to the poor.
The organization has grown in size and scale. In 2001, the government established it as a Lembaga Amil Zakat Nasional (National Zakat Collecting Agency). Today, the foundation has 17 representative offices across Indonesia, Hong Kong, Japan and Australia.
During Ramadan last year, the foundation collected Rp 55 billion ($5.8 million) of alms and donations. This year, Dompet Dhuafa aims to increase its zakat and donation collections to Rp 70 billion during Ramadan.
“Muslims are required to give 2.5 percent of their income as zakat all year round,” Yayan said. “However, as religious awareness among people improves during Ramadan, we’ve decided to take this moment to remind and encourage people to give zakat.”
A campaign running under the theme “Datang Dari Hati” (“From the Heart”) was launched in Jakarta last week to encourage people to give more. The campaign consists of a series of activities involving celebrities, donors and people who are interested in helping society during the holy month.
And as part of Festival Kampung Bersih (Clean Kampung Festival), Dompet Dhuafa will visit marginalized communities in the country, including Kampung Idiot and Kampung Apung.
Kampung Idiot is an unfortunate nickname for a group of villages in Ponorogo, East Java, where most of the inhabitants suffer from mental deficiencies due to malnutrition, while Kampung Apung refers to a slum area in Kapuk, West Jakarta, where people live in elevated shacks because the slum has been flooded since 1987.
“We want to encourage people in the cities to be more sensitive and alleviate the suffering of the people in these kampungs,” Yayan said.
Festival Kampung Bersih will see Dompet Dhuafa and volunteers help clean up the kampungs, build sanitation facilities and give donations.
Another of Dompet Dhuafa’s Ramadan programs is pasar berkah , or blessed market, which involves setting up markets in 12 impoverished areas around Jakarta, Semarang, Surabaya and Serang, Banten, to sell discounted staple foods such as rice, eggs and sugar.
“During Ramadan, the prices of primary food supplies normally go up,” Yayan said. “So, we subsidize the cost of these food supplies and allow poor people to buy them at a fraction of their normal prices.”
To facilitate donations, Dompet Dhuafa has established more than 60 zakat counters in shopping malls and office buildings.
Dompet Dhuafa collaborates with Hypermart, Matahari Department Store, Alfamart, Pongs Home Center and The Body Shop so that shoppers can pay their zakat through their cashiers.
Zakat can also be paid through mobile phones. Dompet Dhuafa is working with XL and Indosat to receive zakat via text message. “We make it very easy for people to donate,” Yayan said.
With all the different programs and facilities designed to facilitate zakat, Yayan is confident the group’s Rp 70 billion target can be achieved.
But, where does all the money go?
“We believe health and education are the two main things that can alleviate poverty in Indonesia,” said Ismail A. Said, president director of Dompet Dhuafa. “When Indonesian people are healthy and well-educated, they can work and create jobs for others.”
Currently, Dompet Dhuafa operates 39 free clinics for needy people all across the country.
On July 4, it established its first hospital, Rumah Sehat Terpadu Zona Madina (Integrated Healthy House). The hospital, which was built on a 7,803-square-meter plot in Bogor, has intensive care, surgery, dental and neonatal units. The hospital offers services to disadvantaged people free of charge.
Dompet Dhuafa also runs the Smart Ekselensia Indonesia high school in Bogor. Smart Ekselensia is a boarding school for bright students from impoverished communities across the country.
“By providing more opportunities to gifted children, we hope that they will excel at their studies, get a good job and help to break the vicious cycle of poverty in their families and communities,” Ismail said.
Last year, all of the students from Smart Ekselensia were accepted by top Indonesian state universities.
Dompet Dhuafa also supports several small and medium enterprises through its masyarakat mandiri , or independent communities, programs. One of the beneficiaries is Sopan Purnomo, a martabak seller in Cipinang, East Jakarta.
“Dompet Dhuafa teaches us how to make halal, healthy and good-tasting food,” Sopan said. “It also trains us to teach our colleagues [other food peddlers in Cipinang].”
Sopan is one of the 80 food vendors who belong to the ikhtiar swadaya mitra , or independent partner, cooperative of Cipinang Besar Selatan, which is under Dompet Dhuafa.
“I really hope Dompet Dhuafa can help and empower more people like us throughout Indonesia,” Sopan said.
For more information, visit www.dompetdhuafa.org.