As local social initiative the sameness project prepares for its second Water 4 Workers donation day, Mark Griffiths meets the volunteers to find out why they do it.
She had me from the outset. ‘Dig into this city and search out all it has to offer you. Sometimes it will sparkle, sometimes you’ll get your hands dirty, but you’ll never regret the journey.’
A volunteer for Dubai’s the sameness project Eliza Raum is that person you wish you were more like. Clear, concise and kind beyond words, Raum makes a lot of sense.
‘We’ve all been asked by visitors “what should I see to experience the real Dubai?”’ she says. After minimal deliberation we agree on the usual list of tallest buildings, biggest malls, sandiest desert, longest brunch and warmest ocean. But while the list ticks all the boxes for tourists, Raum questions whether it’s enough for a resident, someone who calls Dubai ‘home’. ‘This is your town for however long you call it home, and you owe it to yourself to look deeper than what can be seen on a long layover.’ Water for Workers (W4W) is a great starting point.
A simple project where volunteers offer cold water and a ‘thank you’ to those grinding away in the summer heat, Raum encourages ‘real’ Dubai residents to roll up their sleeves and get involved. Organiser Fiona Hepher says the last W4W saw more than 50 volunteers cover 151 kilometres to hand out 1,600 bottles of water to those working in temperatures of up to 42°C. ‘W4W stickers are placed on bottles, with “thank you” translated into six different languages; English, Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, Tagalo and Bengali,’ explains Hepher.
‘We hit the streets of Dubai in search of anyone working outside in the summer heat and as workers receive water and recognise “thank you” in their language, the lines that separate us are erased and moments of sameness are shared.’
W4W started last year by accident after two sameness project volunteers gave away leftover water following an event. Interactions and short conversations left both the giver and the receiver sincerely humbled and W4W was born. ‘The message is a simple, “thank you” for helping make Dubai the awesome city it is,’ said Hepher. ‘We hope the bigger message – that all people are worth the same amount –comes across as well. The smiles in our photos tell all.’
W4W is currently funded entirely by the sameness project, a social initiative rather than charity or NGO, but the search is on for a water provider to donate the H2O. ‘Water donations from any organisation would obviously help. Our dream is to have a water company join us to support Water for Workers.’
Covering areas across the city from Dubai Marina to the dry docks, the more volunteers the further the reach. A car, cool box and copious smiles are all that’s needed.
‘People usually have a look of confusion or suspicion on their faces at first, but they relax quickly when they realise you’re just there for them and have no alternative motive.’
Just a few hours on a Saturday morning is all volunteers need to spare. ‘We were back by lunchtime,’ says Raum.
‘The most humbling moment we experienced was when we realised we didn’t have enough water for everyone. One man, obviously incredibly thirsty and feeling the full intensity of the noon Dubai sun, turned to the man next to him and handed him his water, knowing that he would have to go without. This was not his friend or co-worker, it was a simple act of kindness to a stranger. What we were out doing as a special event, this man did as just another moment in his daily life.’
Appealing for volunteers and donations, Hepher adds: ‘It isn’t about the have’s helping the have-nots, but spreading “sameness” so everyone feels equal and not separated by religion, culture, colour or social class.’
The next Water for Workers event takes place on Saturday July 6. Volunteers can meet at Safa Park, Gate 5, from 10am armed with car and cooler. Water with thank you stickers will be provided.
For more information visit www.thesamenessproject.com
Help for workers
Ramadan Care Package Night
Dubai’s biggest charity event is back. Make a difference by joining the Dubai Chamber Ramadan Care Package Night in support of Adopt-a-Camp. Volunteers are required on Wednesday July 24 from noon-7pm and on Thursday July 25 from 6-11pm to help put together and deliver care packages containing much needed supplies for labourers in Dubai’s Labour Camps.
To register as a volunteer visit www.adoptacamp.ae.