Charity projects in Dubai

Embrace Ramadan and the UAE’s Year of Giving with these charitable campaigns


Among the glittering skyscrapers, pristine beaches and manicured lawns of our city is an army of big-hearted volunteers and organisations working tirelessly to support, feed, clothe and educate thousands of workers, families and individuals in need in the UAE. Then there are the parents donating their time to reach out to neighbours and fellow families, far from home and searching for friendship, who prove that the kindness of strangers really is the greatest gift of all. These are the generous people and charitable groups you need to know about…


Throughout the year, scores of workers across our city work night and day to keep the roads, parks and beaches clean. And the Ramadan Fridges appeal over past years has helped these workers enjoy a cold drink and an iftar meal through the placement of fully stocked fridges in many communities.

Ramadan/Sharing Fridges

Working for change
Beginning as an initiative to help blue-collar workers enjoy some nice meals during Ramadan, its work continues in many communities year-round as people stock the fridges they’ve left around Dubai with their own food. This is a simple act of kindness that has warmed the hearts of many.

You can make a difference
Find out if there is a fridge in your community, rally your friends and get a roster going to keep it stocked. You can even set up your own fridge, as long as it’s in an easily accessible area and you’ve been given the relevant permission to help out.


The Food Bank

Working for change
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched a very special charity programme earlier this year to mark his accession as ruler of Dubai 11 years ago. The Food Bank aims to ensure that unused food from supermarkets, hotels and restaurants is put to good use and distributed to those who need it. High-profile food and beverage organisations such as the Jumeirah Group and COYA are working with this initiative to raise its profile and give back.

You can make a difference
Although you can’t actively participate, you can do your bit to raise awareness by asking the food outlets and supermarkets you frequent if they are part of it. According to the Dubai Media Office, the UAE loses Dhs13 billion each year in food waste, but this initiative ensures that good-quality, discarded fare finds its way to the needy.


We hear their call for action on the radio all the time. We read about the great work they’re doing and we love knowing that the city we call home is making a difference throughout the world. But how much do you actually know about them? By getting involved, you can help be part of this difference. These are just some of the myriad charities worth supporting right here in the UAE...

Dar Al Ber

Working for change
One of the oldest charitable groups in the UAE, Dar Al Ber was established in 1979 and continues to implement projects both at home and abroad to ease difficult living situations for so many. It currently has more than 18,000 urgent projects that it needs help with.

You can make a difference
This organisation mostly looks for donations for the various programmes it runs. The website shows all the countries where it has a presence and documents the support it is giving to these communities.

Connect (600 575 552).

Dubai Cares

Working for change
Since 2007, Dubai Cares has been working to break the cycle of poverty by ensuring all children have access to quality education. Through projects and programmes in 45 developing countries, the organisation is building schools and ensuring clean water and nutrition for children, which, in turn, gives them a chance to grow up and take their place in the world.

You can make a difference
There are 4,250 volunteering opportunities available, both locally and globally, to UAE residents as part of the Year of Giving 2017. You can also support a range of UAE-based non-profit schools by working with the organisation to improve the environment for the students. Volunteers install desks and chairs, put up bookshelves and equip libraries, and set up playground toys and sports and musical equipment.


Emirates Red Crescent

Working for change
Founded in 1983, Emirates Red Crescent prides itself on offering leadership and excellence in humanitarian work, both at home and abroad. The organisation works to improve the living conditions across communities through construction projects such as mosques and houses, as well as hosting programmes and activities to provide relief in regions affected by natural disasters, poor medical conditions and other hugely worrying issues.

You can make a difference
Emirates Red Crescent welcomes volunteers who are UAE citizens (or who have a valid residency here) and other GCC countries, too.

Connect (800733).

Gulf For Good

Working for change

Gulf For Good organises exciting adventures and challenges around the world, inspiring ordinary people to do something amazing while raising money for charities across the globe. From hiking along the Great Wall of China to scaling Mount Kilimanjaro to cycling through the wilds of Borneo to kayaking through the wadis of Oman, it’s a great way to forge friendships while doing something for the greater good.

You can make a difference
Sign up for a challenge and get your posse together to raise some sponsorship money. All the funds go directly to well thought-out projects that will use the funds to make a real difference to the wellbeing of their chosen communities.

Connect (04 368 0222).


Naturally, we all want to keep our children safe, happy and healthy. So, why not also donate some time to brighten the day of kids who may need it more than your own?

Al Noor Training Centre for Children With Special Needs

Working for change
Under the Royal Patronage of HH Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Al Noor works to create a better world for its students. It provides ISO-certified, professional programmes and offers holistic training through a range of disciplines, including: special education; physical, occupational and speech and language therapy; psychological services; IT; vocational training; and sports, music and arts and craft classes. As a non-profit organisation, Al Noor heavily relies on the support of the community, especially on its various fundraising initiatives.

You can make a difference
Working directly with the children is where Al Noor sees volunteers bringing the most value. This can be very rewarding for both the children and the volunteers, as relationships and friendships are forged. The organisation also need volunteers in its Assistive Technology Department, and at events such as the annual funfair, one of the major community fundraisers for the centre.

Connect, (04 3404844).


Working for change
START is a non-profit organisation running art workshops for refugees, orphans and children with disabilities across the Middle East and India. It uses the arts to help them find their voice and express how they feel. The aim is to build self-esteem and happiness in all our children.

You can make a difference
The team is very involved with art workshops for children with disabilities here in the UAE. If you have a few hours to give, enjoy getting messy with paint and nurturing a child’s creative expression. Workshops generally last 90 minutes and you will work with the instructor. All you need is a little patience and a big smile.

Connect (04 368 9895).

Wanna Read?

Working for change
A story shared with a little one who is cooped up in hospital is something they will treasure. Founded in 2013, this not-for-profit is led by Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan and works to promote reading, and builds reading rooms for children in hospitals across the UAE. The team sets up areas within paediatric wards, creating a warm, friendly and stimulating environment, filled with an abundance of books to help young patients through their healing and rehabilitation.

You can make a difference
Wanna Read? runs an active volunteer programme at some of the hospitals where they have dedicated areas and it is their aim to implement more across the UAE. Volunteers are encouraged to read to young patients, either in a dedicated Wanna Read? room or at their bedsides. They also call for volunteers to offer support at various events, providing social media activity, room set-up and admin.

Connect, (02 555 5494).

Small and Mighty Babies

Working for change
This group of mums and dads was established by UK-born Joanne Hanson-Halliwell after she gave birth to her little boy prematurely. During this time, she crossed paths with so many families in the same situation and she saw a need for a support system to help them through this often frightening time. The group has grown and offers courage and hope to many families every day, and Hanson-Halliwell won the Time Out Kids Special Recognition award for Pre- and Post-Natal Care in 2016.

You can make a difference
Small and Mighty Babies relies on support and friendship from the community. They are often in need of an extra pair of hands to help out with hospital visits and special requests. At the moment, they are working to sew a multitude of small linen bags that
will be put into boxes to keep special memories safe.


The Lighthouse Cohort

Working for change
The Lighthouse Cohort serves as a link between people’s skills and the charities and non-governmental organisations that need them most. Founded by architect Aishwarya Joshi, it helps corporate companies with their CSR initiatives and also aids individuals to find places to put their time and skills to good use.

You can make a difference
The charity is running programmes with labour camps and it is easy to get involved. This team will work with you and keep within your budget, helping you put a plan together to deliver these care packages and also spend time chatting with those in the camps. Children, accompanied by an adult, are also welcome to tag along and spread a little joy.

Connect, (050 376 0981).


We asked two Dubai-based volunteers why they think every one of us has the power to make a difference in our communities.

Stephanie Sutherland

Sutherland is involved with Dubai Mums Helping Hands, a group of like-minded volunteers who help support Dubai’s labour community via Smartlife, an NGO, and their SmartDistribution programme. They bring fresh fruit and vegetables to labour camps across the city every week and the group is sustained through non-monetary donations.

This is officially the Year of Giving in the UAE. Has this had a positive impact on your charitable programmes so far?
Yes! The outpouring of support for our current and upcoming programmes has been outstanding. I credit the forward and progressive thinking of our UAE leaders, for addressing what we can do as a whole to make the world a better place.

What mistakes do you believe people make when deciding to volunteer?
I think there are no mistakes when giving your time to care for others. It might not be your thing, but at the very least if it changes the way you look at the world and enables you to have empathy for others, it’s always positive. Giving and caring for others doesn’t always have to include volunteering. Everywhere you go there is a chance to share kindness and consideration.

How important is it to research the group or organisation you would like to help?
I think the more research you do will lead you to an organisation with like-minded people who have similar beliefs. This is important in driving forward a goal and making new friends.

How has running Dubai Mums Helping Hands changed your life and perspective on the future?
My life is so much richer for meeting and interacting with our labour community. I would have never had this opportunity to learn so much about other customs and cultures at home. Dubai has such a vibrant community – that’s a huge driving force for me, because I’m a very curious person.

Do you find it easy to find volunteers?
Yes, quite easy, for which we are very grateful. I think people want to help and give to others, but don’t always know how. The Year of Giving is such an important initiative in driving this home.

Any tips for parents with young children who may have a little time on their hands?
I think you can easily start by simply looking around your neighbourhood. Start by looking at your beautiful garden surroundings and find the man responsible for that. Pass him some cold water and an orange. Or, try setting up a lemonade stand outside your villa and watch your kids delight in pouring lemonade for others on a hot day. If you have the money, consider investing in a fresh water stand, where workers can wash their hands and faces, and refill their water bottles. All too often I see empty water bottles, so that’s a vital one.

Carole Binbrek

A few months after moving to Dubai 11 years ago, Carole Binbrek set up Arabian Ranches Ladies. The organisation’s mantra is “encouraging friendship and understanding between ladies of all nationalities in Dubai” and it achieves this through weekly meet-ups, activity groups, workshops and days out, and has proven to be an invaluable support both to new arrivals and the lifelong friends it has created along the way.

How much time do you spend volunteering?
I give several hours a week to Arabian Ranches Ladies, which includes presiding over our Tuesday morning meetings and teaching the Scottish Dance Circle on a Wednesday morning. Some weeks there are several hours of administrative work, too.

Why did you decide to set it up?
I started this club because my husband and I have retired to Dubai. Being a member means your social life is with the Ranches or surrounding areas. We have at least 20 circles that meet in each other’s homes or events are held at the golf club. As I got older, I wanted a social life within easy reach.

How important do you think groups like yours are in communities here?
I think the community group is very important indeed. As soon as a lady steps through our door she will make friends, find interesting activities to do and the support she needs while living here, where you have no relatives and have left your friends behind. Our motto is
“new friendships start here”.

What does volunteering mean to you?
It’s the satisfaction in seeing a quiet lady suddenly come out of her shell and feel comfortable talking in a group and making friends. Then I know I’ve done my job. Many of the ladies become lifelong friends and we have reunions. We keep in touch on Facebook or email and I love it when former members come to see us when they are back visiting Dubai.

What makes a good volunteer?
A good volunteer is one who does his or her voluntary work cheerfully and willingly. They have to be reliable and organised and carry out the work they have promised to do.

How can people get involved?
We have many mums in our organisation and we even have a circle for mums whose kids are at university, but we would love to have a mums’ and toddlers’ circle. We have had one in the past, but no-one has volunteered to run one at present. Any mum can be involved in any of our activities. We have lots of morning circles and they can also start up their own circle for something they are interested in running and we’ll support it.
Join online at

100 days of giving

Schoolchildren will be encouraged to do good deeds through a new initiative by a nationwide happiness scheme. The 100 Days of Giving project is aimed at instilling a culture of giving back to one’s community and was launched by the National Happiness and Positivity Programme. Students can document their participation in the initiative and school-led activities in special notebooks and on social media, using the hashtag #100_Days_of_Giving.

Want to get involved?

Dubai Mums Helping Hands’ fruit and vegetable drives to the labour camps across the city take place early on Friday mornings with the help of school buses and take just a couple of hours to complete. Each volunteer brings along ten small bags of fresh fruit and vegetables and children are also welcome and encouraged to come along. Sign up at to find out when the next fruit and vegetable drive will be and how you can reserve a place for you and your family.

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