1. Give blood
Given the amount of traffic accidents in the UAE (high), blood donation is a wise investment. Donation is open to those over 18, although you must have a resident’s visa. Your medical history will be checked for chronic diseases like diabetes or hypertension, and there is screening for infectious diseases like hepatitis A and B, syphilis and HIV. Donors can safely give up to four times a year, we are told, so if you want to become a regular donor, visit Al Wasl Hospital or call 04 324 1111.
2. Get baking
Work needn’t be an obstacle to the eager volunteer. Why not find a good cause and start your own weekly lunchtime bake sales? Office workers are the bake-sale equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel. Nine hours sat in front of a computer screen means that the sight of a well-crafted fairy cake can often drive the over-stressed office employee into sugar-fantasising reverie, allowing you to charge them an arm and a leg for your sweet treats. After all, it’s for charity. Check out www.joyofbaking.com for some classic ideas.
3. Run for it
February 20 sees the return of the annual Terry Fox Run in Dubai – an 8.5km fun run held in various cities across the world in aid of cancer research. It’s not a race, so you can walk, skate or run – it doesn’t matter, so long as you help raise money. Organisers are also looking for people to help volunteer with running the event, from joining the committee and selling T-shirts in the malls. Email: email@example.com for more information or visit www.terryfoxrun.org.
4. Hi ho volunteer
Launched in 1998, Riding for the Disabled Association of Dubai is based around therapeutic riding and is designed to help people with autism, Downs syndrome and learning difficulties. As a volunteer, you will become either a leader (the one who leads the horse) or a sidewalker (there to assist the student if required). Classes are held at Dubai’s Desert Palm and schedules vary. Contact the administrator on 04 323 8003 to get involved and visit www.rdad.ae to download an application form.
5. Sight for sore eyes
ForeSight are a UAE-based non-profit organisation offering support to the emirate’s blind community. Volunteers are welcome in a variety of fields, although Arabic translators and those skilled in photography, film or those who own a printing press are particularly welcome. Volunteers are also needed for counselling positions and to help with ‘white stick training’. Call 04 391 1443 for more information or visit www.foresightrp.com.
6. A fresh start
Calling all artists! Launched by the Al Madad Foundation, START works across the Middle East using art as a means to heal, educate and empower kids from disadvantaged areas. They don’t have a permanent teaching team, but instead rely on practicing artists and arts professionals to fundraise, donate art work, set up workshops, offer studio visits and run lectures to teach kids everything from oil painting to how to develop film. Call 04 368 1128 or visit www.startworld.org for more information.
No, we’re not saying move to Ras Al Khaimah, but rather try your hand at some voluntary ‘random acts of kindness’. Buy flowers for someone you don’t know in hospital, drive an elderly neighbour to the shops (if they want to go – don’t force them!), surprise someone you know with something they actually want for a change. Then just sit back and watch the karmic points come rolling in.
8. Call of the wild
Holidays aren’t just about lying around and enjoying the sun. Check out Close Encounters (www.southern-africa.co.uk) for a variety of conservation volunteer holidays. No matter whether you opt for an Education Safari in Kenya or Dolphin conservation in South Africa, one thing is guaranteed, it will get messy; but you’ll be left with a suntan and a massive sense of achievement.
9. Teen dream
If you’re a teen, it’s time to get out of bed, turn off the Xbox and scrape the remains of last night’s pizza into the bin. Teens 4 Positive Action is a volunteer non-profit group run from Dubai which does work across the UAE for those in need, from helping the homeless and disadvantaged children to raising environmental awareness. In short: changing the world. Call 050 452 7780 or visit www.teens4pa.org for more information.
10. Four by four
ME4x4, as you could probably guess from the name, are a group of 4x4 enthusiasts who organise trips across the UAE and Omani desert. It’s free for club members, and as an added incentive for the public-spirited, they also organise desert clean-up trips. Visit www.me4x4.com for more information and to keep an eye on when and where the next clean-up operation is to be held.