How you can get involved with fundraising operations in Dubai
Sara Taher talks to Lola Lopez of Volunteer in UAE about the organisation’s Ramadan initiative and how you can get involved with the fundraising operations she organises.
Can you walk us through how the group got started? I’ve been volunteering since I was 15 when I was working for Meals on Wheels in the UK, a service that delivers hot meals to immobile pensioners, and have seen the benefits volunteering can have on local communities. Obviously, my move to the UAE didn’t stop me from searching out volunteer opportunities and in 2008 I collected unwanted clothes from residents to take to an orphanage in Africa. After this experience, I found there was such a high demand for volunteering opportunities that I launched Volunteer in UAE. Essentially, we connect volunteers and charities and aim to make giving back as easy as possible. More recently, I’ve also started focusing on advocating cases in the UAE for individuals who are in medical and immigration difficulties. My aim is to not only ultimately resolve each issue, but also to be a pillar of strength for those in various predicaments, doing my level best to ensure that nobody is left alone in distress.
What special events do you have planned for Ramadan? We have our annual Volunteer in UAE Karama Kanteen iftar throughout the Holy Month of Ramadan. Together with City Chef Catering and www.dealgobbler.com we aim to prepare and distribute iftar meals to approximately 54,000 labourers across labour camps in Sharjah, Al Quoz and Sonapur in Dubai. All people have to do to sponsor a meal is go to the Deal Gobbler website and purchase an iftar meal voucher for Dhs32. The meal will consist of chicken biryani, water, dates, a yogurt drink and dessert. The nice thing about this initiative is that by sponsoring a meal, you also have the opportunity to volunteer to go into the kitchens to prepare the dishes, as well as going out to distribute them.
What have been some of your most memorable moments to date? There are a few but one is the case of Melonee Quinaga – this one is very personal to me. Melonee was suffering from kidney damage and urgently needed to travel back home to the Philippines to continue her treatment. Unfortunately, she was having trouble obtaining her passport from her previous employer. Once we were alerted to the situation we were successful in retrieving her passport and organised her flight to the Philippines. Her family was overjoyed to have her back. However, she very sadly passed away a few days later as the kidney damage was just irreversible at that point. Although tragic, I now believe my purpose was to ensure she was able to travel home and be surrounded by her family and loved ones during her last few days.
Why do you think it is important to volunteer in the UAE? Volunteering is an easy and great way to positively impact the wellbeing of the community you live in. Everyone can volunteer in some shape or form, regardless of age, gender, level of education or skill set. One of my priorities at present is to continue to build my database of reliable volunteers in Abu Dhabi, so that I can expand my charitable projects to this emirate as well. Due to a lack of volunteers on the ground, I often have to recruit my Dubai-based volunteers to support any Volunteer in UAE events taking place in Abu Dhabi, which is a shame. I would love to see more residents in Abu Dhabi sign up. I firmly believe that if everyone in the entire world did one small thing to help another, anything at all and did so wholeheartedly and sincerely, the world would be a very different place.
What has support from the community been like? We have a database of 23,000 volunteers who have collectively clocked up 230, 288 hours supporting various charitable initiatives. So I think this speaks for itself. Although I have been doing this for years, I am constantly reminded of how much goodwill exists in the UAE by the sheer volume of support we receive on an ongoing basis. In fact, I have recently introduced an annual Volunteer in UAE awards, to recognise the wonderful achievements of my many volunteers.
What are some of the biggest obstacles you face in this line of work? As with the majority of non-profit organisations, funding is always an issue. I would like to see more collaboration between Volunteer in UAE and corporations operating in the UAE. I believe there is a lot of untapped potential and with more corporate support, we could move mountains.
How can people help out? Whether you are an individual looking to volunteer or a business looking to launch a CSR campaign please visit our website. Here, you can register to become a volunteer, view our upcoming charitable events and projects as well as contact us. To learn more, visit www.volunteer inuae.com or www.facebook.com/volunteerinuae.