On Wednesday 23 January Mustadafin Foundation hosted a delegation of 18 doctors, professors and engineers from NGO’s in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Having planned this tour of South African Muslim NGO’s for more than a year, the delegation finally arrived in Cape Town for a three day stay. Mustadafin Foundation was their first port of call. Among the organizations represented was Vision for Life, Doaan Development Foundation, Alown Foundation for Development, Babaker Charity Hospital, Hadhramout Health Organization, the Charitable Society for Social Welfare, Hadhramout Cancer Foundation and NAMA Civil Society Organization.

Their visit was inspired by the need to address challenges facing NGO’s in a country with similar social struggles to theirs. Items under discussion included capacity building, competency, poverty eradication, professionalism, government support and funding. According to the delegates, their organizations face similar challenges to NGO’s in South Africa. Levels of poverty and education in Yemen parallel those in South Africa. Access to health services is also a difficulty shared by all 3 countries. While volunteerism is popular in their communities, they struggle to obtain long term service from them. It is also increasingly difficult to raise funds needed to sustain the day to day workings of their projects. In addition, in Saudi Arabia in particular, government support of NGO’s is low since increasingly, their government perceives NGO’s as highlighting government incompetence and poor service delivery. Overall, it was concluded that their challenges are indeed similar to ours and perhaps a future symposium addressing these matters is the way forward .

Upon visiting Mustadafin Foundations centers for Adult Literacy, Home & Community Based Health Care, Feeding and Early Childhood Development, the delegation was impressed with what is being done to address these social issues. Despite our humble premises, it became clear that a significant difference is being made at grassroots level in communities in dire need.

“Mustadafin Foundation is doing what all Muslim societies should be doing,” said Professor Dawood Abdul Malik Alhidabi, of the Sanaa Businessmen Club. “Taking care of the poor and the needy and teaching the children is the responsibility of all Muslims.”