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