10 Ways Families Can Fight Poverty
According to the US Census Bureau, 35.9 million people live below the poverty line in America, including 12.9 million children. In a country with as many resources as the United States, this is hard to believe. Yet, it does not erase that reality. Here are some ways families can pool their resources to help.
1. Fight Poverty with Zakat
What is Zakat (charity)? Zakat is the Islamic charity that is required of a Muslim to pay once a year, and helps to fight poverty. It is obligatory only on those adults with a certain level of income and property. It is the right of the poor to get this charity.
2. Get Creative: Fight Poverty with a Charity Box
A great family activity is setting up a charity box. Make the kids feel like they are making a difference. Explain to them what the purpose of it is and what benefits are given to those who give charity. Encourage your children to put a modest portion of their allowance in the box (at least in the beginning, you may want to give your children a small reward for giving charity to encourage them to keep doing it).
Then, at the end of the month, have the kids pick a charity. Praise the amount collected and show them the difference they made.
3. The “Mystery Box” or “Secret Charity Box”
Along with the charity box, tell the kids to give in the “Mystery Box.” Let them learn the benefits of giving charity in secret. Explain to them that they can only put their donation in the box when no one except Allah is watching.
4. Staying Connected to the Community Helps Fight Poverty
Many of us attend the Masjid regularly, yet we do not know our fellow attendees. Sometimes there are needy people in the community who do not seek help for some reason or another. This does not mean that they do not need assistance. In fact, some of them need it the most, but they feel shy or embarrassed coming forward.
The Quran describes some of these people this way:
“those needy ones who are wholly wrapped up in the cause of Allah, and who are hindered from moving about the earth in search of their livelihood especially deserve help. He who is unaware of their circumstances supposes them to be wealthy because of their dignified bearing, but you will know them by their countenance, although they do not go about begging of people with importunity. And whatever wealth you will spend on helping them, Allah will know of it” (2:273).
Take note of their condition, their behavior and befriend them. Get to know their situation, then help them in secret.
5. Preserve Food to Fight Poverty
When having a family gathering, university events, wedding, parties, etc. make sure the food does not go to waste, since there is often a surplus. There are many mosques or community centers that collect food for the hungry. Send it over their way.
6. Have a Garage Sale to Fight Poverty
During the summer, set up a garage sale. Those old items that you have around the house that are still in good condition but aren’t in use are perfect to sell. You can fight poverty by giving the proceeds to charity.
7. Make a Trip to Soup Kitchens and Food Banks
Feeding America’s nationwide network of food banks is today feeding 1 million more Americans each week than it did in 2006. With greater demand for services, there is more need for volunteers to help out. Gather your family and friends and volunteer at these organizations. Charity is not restricted to money. Your donation of time, talent and skills also counts.
8. Get to know others outside your inner circle
Islam teaches us that we are created in different nations and tribes so that we can know one another (Quran 49:13). Get to know people from different socio-economic statuses. It will help you better understand those you are helping, and you will be even more motivated to fight poverty.
9. Be Modest
We are sometimes used to the finer things in life. A good way of humbling oneself is to live simply. Do not always cook or eat extravagant meals or buy overpriced items. Be modest and humble in your living. Saving on resources helps fight poverty.
10. Fasting and Praying to Fight Poverty
Prayer is one of the most powerful tools of action. This is because you are putting your faith and trust in God. Pray for those who are less fortunate than you.
Also, fast. Feeling for those who have less than you helps you experience their reality. Writing a check to a charity is easier than trying to wear the shoes of the needy and hungry. This is something the family can do to help fight poverty together!