IN THE UAE

This Ra­madan, Shreeja Ravin­dranathan finds out how you can do­nate the most pre­cious thing you can give some­one - your time

Friday - - Contents - PHO­TOS BY AIZA CASTILLO-DOMINGO AND ANAS THACHARPADIKKAL

Fri­day finds out how all of us can be a part of the Year of the Giv­ing.

FFa­tima Ahmed Lari will never for­get the day dur­ing Ra­madan in 2015 when she rushed home to of­fer pray­ers in grat­i­tude, hav­ing just dis­trib­uted food and clothes to un­der­priv­i­leged fam­i­lies in the city of Al Shamkha in Abu Dhabi.

‘I knew there were poor fam­i­lies in the UAE but I had never met them. When you see it in front of you and you see how peo­ple are liv­ing you say “Al­ham­dullilah” [praise God] for what you have. Other peo­ple [less for­tu­nate than you] wish [for] what you have. I felt so thank­ful, it was so touch­ing for me,’ the 26-year-old Emi­rati re­calls.

Fa­tima’s ven­ture into the home and hearth of the UAE’s poor was part of a Ra­madan out­reach project un­der­taken by Takatof, a vol­un­teer pro­gramme set up by the Emi­rates Foun­da­tion, the Abu Dhabi gov­ern­ment’s in­de­pen­dent phil­an­thropic or­gan­i­sa­tion, in 2007 for the UAE’s youth.

Her first in­cur­sion into vol­un­teer­ing was made even more spe­cial and poignant by the fact that her act of good­ness was car­ried out dur­ing Ra­madan. ‘We would dis­trib­ute food and clothes af­ter iftar and we had suhour with them, out­side their houses,’ she re­calls.

Fa­tima adds that spend­ing time with the fam­i­lies and hand­ing them the pack­ages of es­sen­tials was more re­ward­ing than sim­ply do­nat­ing money or ma­te­rial items. ‘They were so happy, say­ing to us “thank you, thank you very much”.’

‘And the act of vol­un­teer­ing made me feel like I’m do­ing some­thing for my coun­try and our com­mu­nity. It made me feel proud.’

Giv­ing back has been the fo­cus of the UAE this year, with 2017 be­ing of­fi­cially de­clared as the Year of Giv­ing by His High­ness Shaikh Khal­ifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Pres­i­dent of the UAE, and the spirit of vol­un­teer­ing has been an in­te­gral part of it.

Only last week, a na­tional vol­un­teer­ing plat­form was launched by the lead­ers of the UAE to com­mem­o­rate the Year of Giv­ing. Both Emi­ratis and res­i­dents can reg­is­ter on the web­site (vol­un­teers.ae) de­vel­oped by the Emi­rates Foun­da­tion. It was timely: The hu­man­i­tar­ian ges­tures of char­ity and giv­ing back to com­mu­nity are among the cor­ner­stones of Ra­madan.

Maria Con­ce­icao, founder of the Maria Cristina Foun­da­tion and Dubai-based phi­lan­thropist says that ‘ev­ery­body is in a po­si­tion to help some­body less for­tu­nate, no mat­ter how big or small the act is.’ Maria re­cently com­pleted a record 6 iron­man chal­lenges in six con­ti­nents in 58 days to raise money for 125 school chil­dren in Dhaka.

Fol­low­ing in Maria’s foot­steps might be a her­culean task but there are sim­pler ways to chal­lenge your­self and ded­i­cate your time and en­er­gies to causes here in the UAE this Ra­madan.

Fri­day met some of the coun­try’s ded­i­cated in­di­vid­u­als, from var­i­ous walks of life, who all share one com­mon at­tribute: Their be­lief that there is no no­bler method of de­vot­ing your­self to your com­mu­nity than vol­un­teer­ing.

While the Dubai Vol­un­teer­ing Pro­gram con­ducted by the Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Author­ity, the Emi­rates Foun­da­tion’s na­tional vol­un­teer­ing web­site, and es­tab­lished gov­ern­ment-ap­proved char­i­ties like the Emi­rates Red Cres­cent are great start­ing points, the na­tion is teem­ing with home-grown or­gan­i­sa­tions and causes that al­ways need an ex­tra pair of hands. Here are a few or­gan­i­sa­tions to which you can ded­i­cate those ex­tra few hours you get dur­ing Ra­madan, plus meet the peo­ple who are al­ready vol­un­teer­ing in the UAE:

Only last week, a na­tional vol­un­teer­ing PLAT­FORM was launched by the lead­ers of the UAE to COM­MEM­O­RATE the Year of Giv­ing. Both Emi­ratis and res­i­dents can reg­is­ter on the web­site, VOL­UN­TEERS.AE

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