By Johara Al Mogbel
A woman who has dedicated her life to helping others, and the face of Bunyan Women’s Charity, Nada Albuwardi is the unseen force behind changing the state of poverty in Riyadh.
The people who change the world the most are normally the ones who fly under the radar. There are people who are so hard at work to push their community to a better place, they never stop to wait for a complimentary word. Nada Albuwardi is one of the finest examples this city has to offer. She is one of our role models and unsung heroes.
How many years have you been in the field of voluntary work?
What pushed you into doing charity work?
I visited a poor neighborhood once, and found the situation so deplorable I couldn’t leave it as it is. One thing led to another, and suddenly I discovered I was taking care of 50 plus families at once.
How was Bunyan Women’s Charity established?
After 20 years of voluntary work, I found it necessary to put our efforts under an official foundation so that it could become organized and with clear goals. That’s when we founded Bunyan.
An incident with one of the families that you’ll never forget?
Last Ramadan, we paid the debt on behalf of a man who had ended up in prison for his inability to pay his loan back. And with Allah’s graciousness, he was able to join his family for Eid Al Fitr.
What touched me the most was when he performed sujood in front of the prison doors in gratitude to Allah.
What’s the success story that you’re most proud of?
The thing I’m most proud of is the success of Alqardh Alhasan, a program that gives out interest free loans to families in need (and with a vision).
Give us one hilarious incident you had during your work with Bunyan and the families, and one scary one.
The funny incident: One of the cases, the woman had told me that she had been a mu’alaqah (estranged from her husband) for five years. But when I visited her to check up on her state, I was surprised to find that she was pregnant, and on her ninth month. So I asked her: “Estranged, huh? So where did you get that?”
The scary incident: We went to visit one of the families to do a check, but ended up in the middle of the pregnant mother’s home birth as she didn’t have identification papers to go to a hospital.
What do families need the most, aside from housing?
In a mental capacity, they are most in need for someone to show them the culture of spending money correctly, for the right priorities. In life-related issues, means of affordable transportation either public or private is desperately needed, as well as help with debts and loan-related matters.
What are the biggest problems that you face with the families that are under the care of Bunyan?
Their neglect in education and the hygiene of some of the houses. Being poor does not equate being neglectful and letting your family live in squalor.
Also, hiding the truth, registering at more than one charity and receiving multiple assistances for the same problem, as well as the sense some have for dependency and refusing to work to better their situation.
How do you balance your personal life as a mother and a daughter, your work in the organization, and your job as a teacher?
To be completely frank with you, I haven’t been able to reach the right balance just yet. But I try to do the best that I can, even if I fall short of certain obligations.
What’s your advice for someone who’d like to do voluntary work?
To stay away from random activism, and work under a licensed charity organization.
One of the biggest problems we get with families is that they depend on the unorganized handouts that some well-meaning members of society give out, which discourages them from learning how to stand on their own feet.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to develop Bunyan to be a foundation that begets other charity organizations that specialize in rehabilitation and training, and raising awareness for proper finance management.