Changing lives with the power of social media

Changing lives with the power of social media
3 min read
03 Feb, 2015
Blog: Twitter, Facebook and other platforms can be used for social activism and charity, writes Ali Dahmash, the founder of the Under My Olive Tree NGO.
Social media campaigns can boost relief efforts for Palestinians [AFP/Getty]

My involvement in social media began in December 2008 during Operation Cast Lead, Israel's brutal offensive in the Gaza Strip where more than 1,400 Gazans, mostly civilians, were killed.

In 2006, I had returned to Jordan from the United States and wanted to volunteer, but I didn't know where to go. Luckily, a friend told me she needed a car to take her unwanted household items to an area in Amman called Jabal al-Natheef, and so I joined.

There I discovered another world that I never knew existed, an underprivileged area where people can go to donate clothes, toys, books, and furniture. I was amazed to see an NGO working there to empower the people in an area that lacked basic infrastructure such as a post office and a police station. Security was also a serious issue.

I started volunteering there but knew that wasn't enough; I had to spread the news. So I created a personal blog to inform the public about volunteering and how they could give back to the community.

Doing what was right

I met strangers at the weekend, picked up their donations and dropped them at Jabal al-Natheef.

In 2008, things got serious during the war on Gaza. Everyone was emotional and wanted to help but didn't know how and where. One of the local courier companies started a campaign to gather food parcels to be sent to Gaza.

I started promoting that heavily on my blog and on Facebook. I saw how the community became one and rushed to help buy as much canned food as possible. I saw a 14-year-old who wanted to drive 30 miles to help pack the parcels in warehouses during the freezing December nights.

I remember seeing my mum crying in pain while helping the volunteers put the boxes in the trucks. Those were emotional days.

Soon after the aggression ended, people's enthusiasm for charity started to fade. I knew that helping people should never be temporary; this had to have momentum. So I started an initiative to get underpriviliged children a decent education, and help in humanitarian cases.

     I knew that helping people should never be temporary; this had to have momentum.

There's no better place than social media to encourage people to donate towards education. I started promoting cases on Facebook, Twitter, and my blog, and made sure to post where the money was being spent.

Hiba was a 12-year-old cancer survivor who lost both her eyes and needed a PC with Braille software. I tweeted about her in the morning, and at the end of that day, the money was collected and Hiba had her first PC.

Today, my blog has transformed into a registered NGO, Under My Olive Tree, which supports 38 students and 3,000 orphans.

As much as our world is full of negativity, there is good in people. People want to make a difference. Social media is a powerful tool that can be used for social activism.

Follow Ali Dahmash on Twitter.