Dedicated Young Saudi Architects Create a ‘Cycle of Giving’

Designing a better future for all


(wajedram /

The project began as a way for a group of young volunteers to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan by dedicating their time to serving iftar (breakfast) for fasters in need of a good meal. Three years later, the humanitarians are still helping members of their Saudi Arabian community through their organization, the Ihyaa Group. Bayan Hallak, one of the founders, told Arab News that they found serving iftar so meaningful, they didn’t want to end the project just yet. “We could not accept the fact of going back to our normal routines, and usual lives. We had the energy and the knowledge, so we thought why not start giving more to people?”

That was the premise of Ihyaa Group. Founded in 2015 by ten architects - eight of whom are female - the initiative completes school renovations in some of Jeddah’s less fortunate neighborhoods. Ihyaa’s members wanted to impact residents on a larger scale, thinking beyond an individual basis and instead, affecting generations of deserving families. “By doing something that has an effect, not only on a single person or a family but rather on the generations to come. That was when we decided we wanted to renovate schools and create better learning environments,” Hallak said.

The group has focused on amending the lack of basic health, education, and safety plans, and so far, they’ve renovated five schools, changing the lives of more than 650 students. Physical renovations improved ventilation and light, while colorful wall paintings and interactive designs lifted the energy and brightened the space. Once the project ends, Ihyaa members don’t just forget about the students and move onto the next. The group revisits the school multiple times throughout the year for maintenance checks and to ensure there are plenty of activities community members of all ages can take part in. Hallak said that “some of the schools are being used for (adult) literacy classes and craft workshops in the afternoon.”

“We are passionate to do more, and people are always willing to collaborate and support our work for the development of the community. We educate children today to enhance their living standards in the hope that in the future they will have the power to serve their community by themselves and continue the cycle of giving,” he said.

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