Dubaians seem to enjoy a good walkathon. After an impressive 8,000 people turned out for Dubai’s Pink Walkathon last month, raising money and awareness for breast cancer, Dubai Cares hopes to achieve similar success this week with a new charity event in the city, the Water Bucket Walk. The pavement is in for a pounding this Friday as we’re all encouraged to grab a bucket and set off for a stroll from Jumeirah Beach Park. But what’s it all about?
Tariq Al Gurg, CEO of Dubai Cares, explains that children in Africa have to walk an average of six kilometres each day to fetch water from their nearest water source. Exhausted from the trek, many of the children are forced to miss school, sometimes for more than one day. Besides the fatigue, the water is almost always contaminated, which means the likelihood of children falling ill is very high.
Cue Dubai Cares, whose primary vision is to provide quality education to children in developing countries. The organisation, spearheaded by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, hopes to tackle the issue by providing clean, safe, drinking water within African communities, which in turn allows children better access to the education they need.
On November 20, which is also the United Nations’ International Children’s Day, participants will walk three kilometres along Jumeirah Beach Road. The Water Bucket Walk aims to make people experience a fraction of the difficulties that children in developing countries face every day to collect drinking water, something we all take for granted.
With an entry fee of Dhs30, every person that walks will fund a child’s access to clean drinking water for a year, which means children will spend more time in a classroom than lining up in lengthy queues for contaminated water. All participants will carry a bucket and a bottle of water to symbolise the issue they are walking for.
‘Dubai Cares is all about breaking the poverty cycle,’ explains Al Gurg. ‘We believe that providing children with the right kind of primary education is how we can do it.’ It may seem like a lofty goal, but in little more than two years since its inception, Dubai Cares has provided aid to children in more than 20 countries in Africa, Europe and the Indian Subcontinent by building schools, providing textbooks and school supplies and now aiming to offer clean drinking water.
‘There are four main values we abide by: infrastructure; water, sanitation and hygiene; health and nutrition; and the quality of education,’ says Al Gurg. ’All these issues we aim to resolve will eventually provide the education these children need in order to break the poverty cycle.’
This year, the issue of water, sanitation and hygiene was given priority. The money raised by the Water Bucket Walk will pay to build wells and install water filters and pumps within communities that are deemed to be in direst need of clean water reserves. According to Al Gurg, all the proceeds from the walk will go to the cause. And although Dubai Cares is organising the fundraising, it has strategic partnerships with other non-profit organisations, such as Unicef, United Nations Relief and Works Agency, Oxfam and Save the Children, which will work to build wells and pumps with the money that the walk raises.
While Al Gurg is careful not to say how much money Dubai Cares aims to raise from the walk, he is hopeful about the turnout. ‘People in Dubai are very eager to get involved in any way they can,’ he enthuses. ‘We had more than 8,000 people show up to assemble care packages for children in Gaza, so we’re counting on the community for the Water Bucket Walk as well. Dhs30 is not much, and almost anyone can afford to donate that amount for charity.’
But it’s not all about the money, he adds. ‘What we want people to take away from this event is the experience of what these children face every day of their lives. More than the money and the community feel of the event, the Water Bucket Walk is also trying to raise awareness about how essential clean, easily available drinking water is to the kind of education and opportunities a child in a developing country can have.’
The Water Bucket Walk takes place at Jumeirah Beach Park on November 20 and costs Dhs30 per person. Participants will walk 1.5km to Choithram supermarket on Beach Road, before heading back to where they started. Registrations begin at 8am and the walk starts at 9am. Visit www.dubaicares.ae for details.