‘Zakat’ programs change the lives of beneficiaries

 (Antara/M. Risyal Hidayat)
(Antara/M. Risyal Hidayat)

Abdul Karim is the first in his family to go to college.

The father of the 22-year-old died when he was in junior high school; his mother farms a small plot in his hometown of Cirebon, West Java. His three older sisters only finished junior high school. Some are currently migrant workers.

Coming from a poor family, Karim was once uncertain about his future. At school, he was smart, getting top grades and even entering an international class for talented students in high school. “There were 25 students and we started at 6 a.m.,” Karim said.

One day, a fellow graduate of his high school told Karim to apply for the Etos scholarship given by alms agency Dompet Dhuafa.

With his friends in tow, Karim traveled to Dompet Dhuafa’s offices in Bandung, West Java, and applied. Now, he is in his seventh semester at the University of Indonesia. He studies geophysics and aspires to be a geothermal expert.

Stories such as Karim’s are not rare. Since the 1990s, Indonesia has seen a rise in the number of alms agencies and foundations that focus on economic empowerment, education, health, disaster response and religious development.

Sri Adi Bramasetia, the head of Forum Zakat and the deputy chief of another charitable group, the Community Caring Justice Post (PKPU), provided a breakdown on where zakat money goes. “Around 30 up to 40 percent goes to economic empowerment,” he said. Education and health each receive around 20 percent while the rest went to disaster response and religious development, he said.

Dompet Dhuafa executive director Ahmad Juwaini said that his organization focused on education and health, although it also was involved in education. “Everywhere I go, I meet recipients of Dompet Dhuafa scholarships. Once I was interviewed by a TV journalist. After the interview he said that he was a recipient of our scholarship”. The organization currently funds 400 students and can boast of having helped more than 2,000 graduates.

The PKPU meanwhile, focuses on economic empowerment programs designed to lift people from poverty, according to Bramasetia. Its programs include providing grant money to set up micro-finance co-ops or for capacity building programs.

Bramasetia said that they changed their performance measures in 2010. “We no longer set our targets based on the zakat we collect, but on the number of people we help”. The group set a target of helping 1.5 million people last year. This year, its target is 1.6 million people.

“Our goal is for the programs to reach as many people as possible”.

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | National | Tue, August 21 2012

Shop and do good at the malls

To remind mall-rats that their money can serve other purposes than simply shopping, Islamic charity organizations have gone to the malls and opened for business.

Alms foundations, such as Dompet Dhuafa and the Community Caring Justice Post (PKPU), have set up counters in various malls and shopping centers. That way, whenever Muslims go to shop they are reminded that they also have a duty to give away some of their money to the less fortunate, particularly ahead of the highly consumptive Idul Fitri celebrations.

“We can’t just wait passively [to collect alms]. We have to, as the saying goes, ‘get on the ball’, and we see that potential zakat [alms] payers go to malls,” Dompet Dhuafa executive director Ahmad Juwaini said.

Zakat, mandatory alms, is one of the five pillars of Islam. Paying zakat through malls breaks from the tradition of channeling it through mosques or giving it directly to the needy.

Dompet Dhuafa, the private alms foundation that pioneered professional zakat management in Indonesia in 1993, first opened their counters in office buildings, such as the Jakarta Stock Exchange, according to Ahmad. Eventually, they spotted the potential of malls.

In Jakarta, its counters can be found at Senayan City and Plaza Senayan, as well as Blok M Plaza and Pejaten Village.

Handaka Santosa, head of the Indonesian Association of Shopping Centers (APPBI) said that shopping centers were commonly used as meeting points. “We can use them to create awareness of zakat and provide the facilities for that,” he said.

The emergence of Dompet Dhuafa has led to the establishment of 19 national private alms foundations in addition to the government-run National Alms Agency (BAZNAS) and its regional chapters. Zakat collection by these faith-based charitable organizations continues to rise with an average increase of 24 percent annually. Last year, the organizations collected Rp 1.7 trillion (US$178.5 million).

Ahmad said that while the majority of zakat donations come through online bank transfers, donations from zakat counters in malls can account for more than Rp 1 billion.

PKPU deputy CEO Sri Adi Bramasetia said that counters at malls were quite effective in collecting mandatory and voluntary donations. Last year, the counters collected Rp 1.8 billion in mandatory and
voluntary alms, he said.

In addition, Ahmad said, “because the owners and managers of other counters in the malls see us every day, we reach them as well.”

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Headlines | Tue, August 21 2012