12 Ideas for Teens (& all) to Help Reduce Poverty

What can you, a teenager who doesn’t have a lot of money or resources, do to help the poor and needy? More than you think! Most young adults are blessed with the creativity and intelligence to find ways to help others despite limited resources. If you don’t think you can make a difference – wrong! Poverty has actually been on the decrease. Perhaps this is due to globalization and our ability to learn about and fight poverty more effectively.

Here are some tips that can perhaps jump start your creative process, helping you to help others:

1- Give a portion of your allowance each week to a person in need or a cause that supports them

How much is your allowance or your salary from your part-time job? Not much, you might say. The great thing about giving though is that in about 99 percent of cases, you are not restricted to how much you can give to help the poor and needy.

That means for instance, instead of dishing out a dollar a day for a can of soda from the vending machine at school or work, maybe you can save this money two days of the week. Then give this money to the Zakat and Sadaqa committee of your mosque, a poor person you know in your neighborhood, a local soup kitchen or to a worthy cause abroad.

2- Encourage your parents to pay Zakat

Zakat is something too many Muslims neglect. If you are eligible to give Zakat, you must pay. Not eligible? Ask your parents about Zakat and if they pay, how and to whom. If they do not give Zakat, respectfully and politely emphasize to them the importance of this necessary pillar of Islam and encourage them to start paying it. Use wisdom and beautiful preaching.

3- Encourage a family Sadaqa (charity) project

Get the whole family to pitch in at least once a month to a worthy cause by organizing a family Sadaqa project.

Call a family meeting (if you’ve never had one of these, this is a great time to start) and discuss your idea. Then come to an agreement on how everyone can help the poor. It could be contributing a set amount a week as a group with Dad giving the money to the Masjid after Friday prayers or setting up a box somewhere in the house where family members can privately donate. You all decide.

4- Talk about it with your friends

What are the first steps in finding solutions to problems? Du`aa’ (supplication) then brainstorming and discussion. At your next youth group meeting, put the difficulties of the poor and needy in your community on the agenda.

Simply discuss and brainstorm. You don’t have to come up with a plan all at once. But discussing this will start the process and keep it in people’s minds. If you don’t have a youth group, get your friends together.

Instead of having the usual hang out time one day, substitute this with a formal meeting. Now you have a youth group that can do this exercise.

5- Visit a part of town with low-income residents

How many big cities have “poor quarters”? Almost every single one. Sometimes, we need to see the reality of poverty right in front of us to really believe it’s there, especially if we live in a financially well-off part of a city.

Go with your youth group to visit these areas. You don’t have to necessarily bring money or food for them (although that wouldn’t be a bad idea). Research the area, find out how it came to be like that. Prepare yourself for an eye-opening experience. This may be where you find the organization you want to give to or work with.

6- Do a class presentation on poverty

Stumped about what to do for a school assignment? Why not talk about the plight of the poor in your community. Do your research thoroughly. Get statistics on poverty, real stories from books and perhaps even video- or audio taped interviews of the poor and homeless. Show the human face of poverty. Follow the presentation up with a class collection for the poor.

7- Don’t just collect money

There are plenty of basic necessities that people have to meet. Some people can’t afford new shoes. So hold a shoe drive (some teens have already done this). Others cannot afford clothing. Hold a clothing drive. Collect the material, arrange for cars, vans or trucks to transport it to where it’s needed, then make sure the material is properly distributed.

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