Life in Jeddah / What's Going on in the Gulf?

Jeddah’s Resourceful Residents

Jeddah’s Resourceful Residents
T. Al Maeena
Arab News Columnist

Walkway in Park Jeddah

The city of Jeddah has had its share of abuses by visitors and residents alike in recent years.

It has been described as unplanned, crowded, bordering on being dirty and somewhat lawless. One doesn’t have to drive far on its roads to believe that what is being said has more than a grain of truth.

And while government bureaucracies struggle to find a direction to navigate this city out of its increasing mess, there is a concerned and resourceful group of individuals who have taken matters into their own hands and are indeed putting into action their plans for a better Jeddah.

One such group of proactive residents is the Friends of Jeddah Parks (FJP) that has been focusing its activities on the inner-city neighborhoods of Jeddah. They are a voluntary organization of Jeddah citizens from varied backgrounds and professions who have banded together to form an effective committee of good-doers and Samaritans.

Realizing a desperate need for such facilities, these individuals have dedicated themselves to creating professionally designed parks and open recreation spaces in inner-city neighborhoods. Volunteering their time, expertise, and resources, they are committed to do all of this for the good of the community and for generations to come.

Their aim is to reach most inner-city neighborhoods of Jeddah, ensuring that its open and often neglected spaces are transformed into a haven of hope for the residents.

By integrating neighborhood residents into their plans and projects, Friends of Jeddah Parks hopes to make certain that such open spaces are self-sustaining, regularly improved and developed, and contribute to the well-being of the neighborhood.

By doing this, it is hoped that some optimism and inspiration would be provided to the deprived youth of such neighborhoods, and enhance traditional values and ethics through a collective effort.

Friends of Jeddah Parks has set a defined plan toward reaching its objectives. They first study the need for open spaces in different neighborhoods through in-depth research and analysis within the communities.

Then they lobby the city authorities for the provision of lands to be allocated for parks and recreational facilities. I am told that the mayor has been very supportive and encouraging toward the goals of this group.

Then they are off to obtain funds through the lobbying of the local community, be they organizations or individuals. Contributions are the key to the success of any project, and hopefully there are enough civic-minded residents with deep pockets to ensure the continuity of such programs.

Once the funds are obtained, the joint expertise within this group, which includes architects, urban planners and landscape engineers designs the recreation facility according to the needs of the neighborhood.

Friends of Jeddah Parks’ launch project, Faisal’s Park was completed early this year, and has been very well received by the residents. Police statistics indicate that the crime rate has indeed dropped dramatically since the opening of this park and its multisports facilities that have provided an outlet for the youngsters to channel their energies in a positive manner.

Some time back, I was fortunate to visit Faisal’s Park and have to admit that it is on par or better than many of the recreation places I have seen in different parts of the world. And it is heartening to note that this one is located in a neglected neighborhood, providing a beacon of hope for its young and where its benefits are highly appreciated.

Yes Jeddah has its share of woes. But just talking about them is not going to solve them. It is time to take proactive action, as did the volunteers who have made Friends of Jeddah Parks a credible organization serving the community through various projects.

Many who read this column may have at one time or the other wanted to do some good toward their community. Our community is what we collectively make it to be. By putting our resources together as FJP did, we can make this city a better place.

God bless you all.

— Friends of Jeddah Parks welcomes you to get involved and contribute in whatever way you can. They can be reached at 657-9572

One thought on “Jeddah’s Resourceful Residents

  1. Park Helps in Behavioral, Physical Development
    Arab News

    JEDDAH, 8 March 2008 — Saleh Al-Majrashi, 15, lives in Al-Thaalbah area in the south of Jeddah. The boy and his peers have gone through a lot of behavioral and physical development after the establishment of a privately-donated public sports park in their district.

    “There has been a noticeable decrease in aggression and a development in behavior among the youngsters in the area after the establishment of the Faisal Sports Park,” said Yahya Madani, senior resident of Al-Thaalbah area.

    Madani and many other residents agreed that the district’s situation has improved after the establishment of the park, which was donated last year by the Zahid family in remembrance of their late son, Faisal Mohammed Zahid.

    Madani said that the young ones used to form groups and gangs and cause problems. “Previously, with the lack of playgrounds —soccer or basketball, kids often fought for a place in the few empty lands to play, but now they have a sense of belonging and sharing that was sparked by the park,” he said.

    Al-Majrashi, who is in his first year of high school, said that there used to be fights over the only viable space in the neighborhood where they could play soccer: a dusty, empty lot. “Sometimes older kids would come and chase us away so they could play,” he said.

    “If you wanted to play soccer before you had to be prepared for a fight,” said Salem Abdou, an 18-year-old Yemeni resident of the neighborhood.

    Saeed Al-Muhsin, a student at the nearby Sulaiman Ibn Abdulmalik High School, said that the park has not only increased play areas, but also engenders a spirit of cooperation. The park’s management organizes schedules for the use of the soccer pitches, for example.

    “When aggression becomes a necessity to earn a place, it becomes general behavior,” said Al-Muhsin. “Young people, especially in poorer areas, need to feel that they are responsible, and projects like this certainly fulfill that need.”

    In a previous interview, the Jeddah Municipality has revealed that it has reserved 50 undeveloped plots of land around the city to become public parks and is calling on local philanthropists to sponsor and fund the development of public spaces.

    The lands, worth an estimated SR30 million, are being developed with the help of private investors willing to sponsor the development of parks as a philanthropic contribution to the city, said Ashraf Al-Turki, who heads the municipality’s public-space development efforts.

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