Locally based swimwear designer Maureen Hall talks to Benita Adesuyan about her novel campaign Drop Your Shorts and its yearly quest to help Dubai’s labourers get out and enjoy the emirate’s many beaches in style.
Beautiful sandy beaches are a given in the emirate and arguably its number one selling point. Clean and free, they’re on perennial tap to enjoy. For most of us that is, save for the thousands of Dubai’s labourers,
where the chance to spend a day beach-dwelling is rarely an option.
Why? Because of a lack of the legally required appropriate attire.
Three years ago a law was passed to ensure that all beachgoers wore proper swimming suits and shorts, leaving many of the city’s least well-off residents without a chance to enjoy a day beside the sea. Enter Maureen Hall, CEO of Coega Swimwear, who started up the donation campaign, Drop Your Shorts. By delivering second-hand swimming trunks, she’s helping the workers have their day in the sun.
‘I read the story in the paper and I thought that’s unfair because there are not many free things for them to do, but I could see the issue,’ says Hall. ‘Then on the radio they were talking about it and said somebody should start a campaign about this and I thought to myself “they’re right, somebody should,” it should be us.’
Hall, moved to Dubai from Canada with her husband 14 years ago and established Coega Swimwear when she was unable to find swimwear that provided suitable cover and UV protection for herself and her children. The swimwear brand has been going for ten years and was ideally placed to start the campaign.
‘We thought some of the stores that distribute our line could set up drop boxes but there were issues with the mall management. So we tried schools to see if we could set up donation boxes to let people donate there.’
The campaign had a slow start and Hall admits that not everyone initially took to the idea, and the first round of collections produced about 70 pairs of shorts. Luckily, this didn’t deter Hall or her team.
‘We ask ourselves every year if we should keep on doing it, and we always do. I thought initially we’d get more shorts but we are getting more and more every year now and that’s how we get there – step by step. One of our biggest challenges is letting people know that this is a worthwhile cause.’
Hall and her team have successfully found some useful partners. They approached Champion Cleaners to arrange for the donated items to be professionally cleaned before being distributed. Hall also partnered with Adopt-a-Camp, an organisation that aims to improve the lives of the men who live in camps. The organisation has been operating for eight years and provides facilities, courses and medical assistance to 50 camps.
We went down there and did some of the distribution – they were really happy, some of these guys love going to the beach – it’s the thing they can do on their one day off.’
The next campaign is already underway for this year and will be running until the end of April.
Hall has partnered with a number of schools and sporting organisations to increase the number of donation box locations. ‘Last year we got over 200 pairs. This year Coega is donating beach sandals as well, so we’ll donate a pair for every pair of shorts that we get. Our goal is to get over 300 pairs, 350 would be great.’
So how can you get involved? Hall says simply spread the word and drop your shorts. ‘It doesn’t matter what they look like, any size and shape, just drop them off to the nearest drop box. If you want to have a box at work or school then get in touch on Facebook.’
Other ways to help labourers
Care for Labourers
A non-profit platform to exchange and implement ideas to improve the quality of life of labourers and low-income workers in the GCC.
Adopt a camp
This organisation currently provides medical assistance, language courses and counselling to 50 camps and over 52,300 men in functioning and abandoned camps.
A non-profit organisation that pairs labourers with mentors. Offering the labourer the opportunity to gain confidence and inter-personal skills. Mentors can meet the adopted labourer at least once a month and no money is exchanged.
Where to donate
Collegiate American School
Umm Suqeim (04 427 1400).
Dubai British School
Springs 3 (04 361 9361).
Jumeirah Primary School
Al Safa 1 (04 394 3500).
Arabian Ranches (04 361 9019).