Ramadan initiative aims to distribute food and toiletries to thousands of Dubai labourers
One month, 13 camps and up to 10,000 labourers. This is the mission of Tamquest Entertainment through its Ramadan initiative, ‘Smile on the Face’. Its premise is to distribute food and toiletries to labourers, and now in its fourth year, its aim is to increase its reach. We spoke to Uttam Kumar, managing director of Tamquest, to find out how the community can get involved and share in the spirit of Ramadan with some of the people who have helped build the city.
Why did you want to set up a programme like this? My wife and I do this quite often in India and in Dubai. It’s just something that we like doing. It started on a really small scale, then a lot of people got involved and it just evolved. Last year we reached out to around 11,800 people during Ramadan.
What goes into the packages? We pack biryanis, water, fruits, dates and a smile bag containing shampoos, soaps, an energy drink and toothpaste.
Providing gift packages to thousands of people is a big operation. What are the challenges you face? The only challenge for us is the cost of getting the biryanis, but the best part is, a lot of companies come forward to support this initiative. Bank of Sharjah has been supporting this event for the past three years and we have other sponsors including Dubai Investments and Emax. Corporates love the concept and they want to give something back so they support us. We want others to see this event and either sign up to help, or create their own initiatives.
What kind of reaction do you get from the labourers? We’ve been going to one particular labour camp for the past few years and all the guys there recognise us. They get excited and have a chat with us. We also take pictures with them and sometimes they show us the caps and bags they received the previous year. We’ll be visiting one or two camps that we visited last year, but we’ll also be going to some that we’ve never been to before. We’re also supporting other organisations – including Labour of Love in Abu Dhabi – with food and other products.
How do you feel when you go to the camp? I feel bad seeing the conditions people are living in, but when they are smiling, you feel pleasure with what you’re doing. The whole point of getting this event to this scale is to ensure that people get to know what life is like for the labourers, but see that it’s not difficult to help someone.
How many camps do you aim to visit throughout Ramadan? We’re aiming to visit 13 camps across Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah this year. Each Friday during Ramadan, we’ll go to two or three. On the first Friday we visited a camp in Sonapur that is home to around 3,500 labourers.
Do you run any initiatives outside of Ramadan? We have a lot of contact with the managers of labour camps and sometimes if the people living in them have a problem, we try to help. There’s a camp we visit that house a lot of newcomers who don’t necessarily have the money to get themselves started, so we provide them with towels, basic toiletries and a kit that will see them through at least until they get their salaries and their papers from the company they’re working for. We do our day jobs, but we also have volunteers who help out after office hours. We’re also in talks with a college to see if we can offer free English and IT classes for labourers in the future.
How many volunteers do you need this year throughout Ramadan? We have a database of volunteers that we’ve built up over the years. We send out invites and we tend to get about 25 helpers, but if the camp is big, we ask our volunteers to bring friends and family to lend a hand. Last year we visited a site housing 3,800, so we had about 55 volunteers support us. We’re always in need of more hands to help and we’re visiting three camps in Sharjah on Friday July 3, and two in Jebel Ali and two in Abu Dhabi on Friday July 10. To volunteer, send your name and telephone phone number firstname.lastname@example.org. www.facebook.com/smileontheface (04 887 9783).
Two charitable iftars for UAE labourers
Moti Roti’s ‘Filling the Blues’ iftar Pakistani restaurant Moti Roti is teaming up with other local restaurants to serve iftar to labourers every night of Ramadan. Restaurants can sign up online to pledge to provide a meal, while residents can help dish them up. To volunteer, just turn up any night except Friday to the construction entrance near the Media Rotana Hotel in TECOM by 6.30pm, so that meals can be served as the workers clock off. www.motiroti.me/fillingtheblues.
Reem Al Bawadi’s ‘Give a Little’ campaign Dine at Middle Eastern restaurant Reem Al Bawadi during Ramadan and donate Dhs20 on your bill, which will be used to provide iftar to workers across the UAE. www.reemalbawadi.com (04 452 2525).