A WhatsApp voice note arrives to a Yemeni-American family. A cousin in Yemen had a heart attack and requires surgery, the panicked voice explains. He has been sick for months and they do not have enough money to cover the costs of his medical bills.
Each family member sends money and prayers
Not a week later, another call comes in from Yemen. This time, a neighbor from the family’s home village is extremely ill. The girl, less than 10 years old, suddenly cannot see, speak or hear. The doctors say they lack the expertise to help and she needs to go to Jordan, India, or Egypt for medical care. It will cost at least $30,000. Her elderly father is crushed by the insurmountable mountain ahead of him. Heartbroken, he resigns to his daughter’s fate and does not bother asking anyone for help. The call came from a mutual friend who could not bear to stand by. He has already called several other families abroad to do what they can.
Each family member sends money and prayers.
The calls come in like endless waves. If your family is from Yemen, these tragic pleas reach your home weekly. Everyone does what they can but the need is too great.
So, Yemeni-Americans are getting creative.
Meet Samia. Samia is a teacher in Michigan and owner of a home-based side hustle that sells evening gowns. She uses the money she earns to support multiple projects in Yemen. Namely, she is running five water tanks in Yemen that get filled daily to help people in the area. Families and orphans typically receive any extra funds she earns through food, medicine, or Eid gifts. She repurposed run-off rain water to drain into a tank so animals could have drinking water as well.A new spin
She is also part of a group known as a jam’eea, a practice that made its way from Yemen. Here is how jam’eeas work. Each vouched-for member makes a monthly contribution for a preset time. For example, 12 members contribute $50 per month for 12 months. Each member is assigned a month and will receive all of the funds ($600) for that month. The commitment ends after 12 months. For some members of the jam’eea, this acts as an interest-free cash advance. For others, it is like a savings account that helps others.
Samia’s jam’eea is slightly different. The money contributed each month is a donation. The assignee for the month decides how to donate the funds. This allows members to contribute to more causes, expose each other to various issues in Yemen, and distribute help to different parts of Yemen. It may mean food baskets in Aden, filling a water tank in Ibb, orphan support in Taiz, or assistance for an internally displaced people (IDP) camp in Sana’a.
Those on the receiving end of constant, desperate pleas from family and friends in Yemen carry a heavy emotional burden. A group like this provides a release. More importantly, it brings people together for a good causeInnovative, creative, effective
These creative methods for raising money are happening everywhere. Just check Instagram and WhatsApp. Home-based small businesses and side hustles are donating either all or portions of their proceeds to various nonprofits serving Yemen. There are WhatsApp groups dedicated to selling used items for donations. It is like OfferUp or Craigslist with a cause.
A & A Custom Shop is a home business based in metro Detroit that creates custom items like cups, party favors, cake toppers, and other popular gifts. They partnered with the Iman Jasim Foundation in Ramadan 2021 and donated half of all proceeds to Yemeni orphans. A & A Custom shop was able to donate $430 last Ramadan. With dozens of small businesses doing the same, that is thousands of extra dollars serving Yemenis in need.
Whether it is a small home-based business, a jam’eea with family and friends, or some other unique way to help raise money for Yemen, keep getting creative and keep hustling.
While those heart-wrenching calls will not stop coming, Yemeni’s abroad will not stop creating new ways to help.