By Nawara Fattahova

KUWAIT: The damage caused by the COVID-19 crisis has affected thousands of people in Kuwait, so various organizations groups, and even individuals have taken the initiative of finding different ways to help people in need.
Living Aid Kuwait is a humanitarian charitable project based on bringing together families in need and people desiring to help them by sponsoring them. Two Kuwaiti sisters, who prefer to stay anonymous, set up an Instagram account @LivingAidKuwait to match people affected by the pandemic with people willing to sponsor them.

We at Living Aid Kuwait don’t accept donations. Our way of attracting both sponsors and needy families is by using our Instagram platform to announce the list of families in need. Potential sponsors and other needy families who see the list end up approaching us, one of the founders told Kuwait Times. Some excerpts:

Kuwait Times: How many people are working on this project?
Currently, our team consists of two people and a volunteer to translate the content of our Instagram account. Our plan is to add more volunteers in the near future.

KT: How did you come up with this idea?
When the pandemic first spread and lockdowns started to take effect, we wondered about the status of low-income people and how they are surviving, especially when many businesses are terminating their employees and many others are permanently closing. However, we didn’t know how to reach them.

By coincidence, we came across the @food_box_kw Instagram account. Their idea was if you know someone in need, order for them from a selection of grocery boxes and baby-need boxes on their website, which are very reasonably priced, and they would be delivered the next day. We sent the account to our house workers to inform us of anyone in need. Soon, they provided us with 11 names of people in desperate need of something to eat or baby milk and diapers. Apparently, one of our household workers had put it up as her Facebook status and many reached out for help.

We were excited – finally, we had a link to someone in need. We made a small Excel sheet and ordered grocery and baby boxes from @food_box_kw. The next day, our house worker informed us of more people reaching out and we repeated the process over and over again until it became too expensive and our WhatsApp was flooded. We knew we had to come up with another way to help, and to make sure we weren’t being used.

We sat for a couple of days thinking it over – not wanting to accept donations was very important, and we knew many people would want to help those families in need but didn’t know how. Just like us, they were clueless. Then the idea of matching those people together (the families in need and the people willing to help) came to our mind. It would allow us to help without it depleting our funds. We came up with a name and a logo within 10 minutes and started our Instagram page. We already had several clips of interviews done the previous day with some families while delivering their food boxes, so we posted them on our page to show people our process of obtaining information about each family/person.

We decided the family-interview system is a great way to confirm information that was previously sent to us on our many platforms. In addition, posting these interviews would allow for transparency and encourage potential sponsors to approach us.

Collecting information
The information we gather from people in need include: Their work history; were they affected by COVID-19 or were destitute from before; how many people are they supporting in Kuwait and abroad; if their rent is still high, we encourage them to have a discussion with the building guard (haris), the agent (wakeel), the representative (mandoob) or even the owner of the building in order to reduce their rent expense and consequently the sponsorship amount; if their sponsors decided to cover rent; how much they spend on groceries; and how much they spend on baby needs.

Getting in contact
This information is gathered in a list and published as our Instagram story @livingaidkwt. Sponsors approach us via DM, choose the family, the cost with or without rent and the number of months the sponsorship covers. Once we get the agreement from the family in need, then their details are sent to the sponsors. And with that final step, our part is over. What is left is for the sponsor to reach out to the family and deliver the funds. We encourage the sponsors to chat with the families, request to see their living conditions and listen to their stories.

We keep contact with both the sponsors and the families to resolve any issues. Since our account only started on June 13, 2020, our plan is to reevaluate the families? situation by the fourth week, as some businesses are restarting, and many employees are going back to work. Some families who reside inside lockdown areas have approached us for aid. Since visiting them and assessing their situation is not possible for the time being, we make sure that their basic needs are covered. They are currently included in our database in order to visit them once the lockdown is lifted.

KT: How many families you?ve sponsored so far?
Eighty-eight families as of June 28, 2020 (in 16 days).

KT: How do you find the families in need?
They find us through our Instagram account. Also, when we visit the families that approach us, we come across other people on the streets who need help as well, in addition to referrals from previously-sponsored families.

KT: Which areas have the most families in need?
Farwaniya, Mahboula, Salmiya, Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh and Hawally.

KT: When will this project end?
The sponsorship program that our account offers should become redundant when the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis are resolved.

KT: How do you choose the family that will receive help among other families?
We only accept new family requests when we sponsor the ones we already have. As for families in lockdown areas, we would like to start with families that have the largest number of children and then move down the list to single people. We?d like to add one more thing: We are cross-referencing our database with other aid groups in order to mitigate the risk of fraud.