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Emirati student Hamad aims to spread hope to refugees through his camera lens

posted on 12/07/2014: 2344 views

Emirati Hamad Al Kaabi is using the spirit of Ramadan to spread a message of hope in refugee camps.

The university student is a keen volunteer with the Emirates Red Crescent charity, where he puts his photography skills to good use by taking pictures of the refugees.

His most recent charity mission was last week to Erbil in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, where he also helped distribute Ramadan gift bags to them. The gift baskets included rice, oil, sugar and other necessary food stuffs.

With the temperature reaching 48°C in the desert and this Ramadan's lengthy fasting hours, Mr Al Kaabi described the visit as a "long, hard day”.

"We got to work directly. First we visited the many camps to see the living conditions of our brothers there. We saw tailoring workshops there and launched a children's play zone. It made us happy to see the children happy,” he said.

He said he feels fulfilled now that he is able to reach many who are in need.

"It was a great trip, and a good opportunity to do good in this holy month. We took advantage of the situation in doing humanitarian work and I thank those who gave me the chance to go and I thank the leadership in the country that supports such humanitarian acts,” he said.

"Anything you do in the holy month, the month of giving, you feel its value even more.”

Mr Al Kaabi, who is a university student, first envisaged volunteering for the Red Crescent about two years ago before finally signing up in December last year.

As well has Iraq, he has also visited camps in Mauritius, Tajikstan, Jordan, Madagascar and Maldives.

"People think the Maldives is an island for tourism and honeymoons, but there are islands that are below the poverty line,” he said.

"We went to continue Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid's campaign of clothing a million children,” he said.

He said the trips can be traumatic at times.

"Every time I land, I know I am going to cry. You see children are excited to see us, they want to hold our hands and give us kisses, they call us amo [my uncle],” he said.

He recalled a story from the Zaatari Camp in Jordan, when he saw a Syrian refugee child selling rocks.

He said: "I asked him ‘what are you doing?' He told me he is selling chocolates, but they were just rocks. I asked him why he was selling them, he said ‘in Syria, we had a shop and I was helping my dad, my father is dead now but I have to sell'.

"How must it feel to lose your dad?” asked Mr Al Kaabi.

With so much suffering in the world, he urged people to do as much as they could to help.

"I aspire to reach those who need it, to help the poor and to show the youth that a young man like them is able to help.

"It is time we enforce the principle of doing good to others and to volunteer,” he said.

When he takes photos, he believes that pictures of people smiling are more effective in gaining the public's empathy for the plight of the refugees. That is why he chooses to take positive images that bring hope, rather than sad ones.

"Better a smile than a tear,” he said.

By showcasing the images on social media, he aims to encourage others to do good.

"From the beginning, when I started in the field of photography, I had a dream of getting the goodwill ambassador title through my camera lens. The reason I got into humanitarian photography is my love of sending a message through my camera lens about the volunteer work and making people aware of it, but indirectly. "

He said he wants to encourage young people his age to devote more of their time to volunteering.

"Thank God, I get many messages from people in the U.A.E. and elsewhere who, because of the pictures I have posted, started voluntary work. That is when I consider myself to be the happiest, to see the fruits of my labour. It feels great.” – The National -


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