posted on 17/07/2012: 665 views
Hundreds of young volunteers will fan out across the country during Ramadan to renovate homes, refurbish mosques and distribute aid to poor families.
Working through the Emirates Foundation for Youth Development, the volunteers will also join in iftars with the elderly, orphans, hospital patients and people with special needs.
"I want to help people," said Khawla Al Hosani, 25, a volunteer from Abu Dhabi. "I want to see what they need. I want to be a part of the community."
This is the sixth year the Foundation has organised a Ramadan project through its volunteering programme, Takatof.
Ali Al Awlaqi, a 19-year-old volunteer from Abu Dhabi, said taking part will make him appreciate what he has.
"This type of work will make me give thanks for the UAE and what this Government gives to us, the chance to have a good life," said Mr Al Awlaqi, who will start university this autumn.
Takatof has 26,000 registered volunteers aged 18 to 40 and about 95 per cent are Emirati, said Mohammed Al Abbasi, senior project lead for the foundation.
Mr Al Abbasi expects 500 to 700 volunteers to join the Dh1 million Ramadan initiative, divided into four consecutive stages.
In the first week of Ramadan, volunteers will visit about 25 needy families in each emirate and provide food vouchers, school supplies, household appliances and other aid.
Donations were allocated based on a survey conducted in the months leading up to Ramadan.
Mr Al Awlaqi spent two weeks visiting families in Abu Dhabi - Emiratis and expatriates - to ask what they needed.
One story that stuck with him was that of a Yemeni mother with cancer.
"Her husband had been stopped from his work because he was always going to the hospital with her," he said. "We saw their house and their life and it was really ... it makes your heart broken for them."
Ms Al Hosani, a human resources officer, surveyed homes in Baniyas, Muroor Street and other areas.
"Some of them need a cooker," she said. "Some of them need paint on their houses. Some of them also need food."
About 90 per cent of the beneficiaries will be Emirati, said Clare Woodcraft, chief executive of the Emirates Foundation.
Mr Al Awlaqi said: "Some of them need help even after Ramadan, for longer, because they are really, some of them, in a hard situation."
Many of the people Mr Al Awlaqi visited were eager to share their story. "They started giving us everything without any questions, because some of them are so poor and they didn't believe that they had a chance," he said. "They want to send their message for the Government, for the volunteers, to help, because they need help."
During the second week of Ramadan, the volunteers will refurbish ageing mosques.
During the third week, volunteers will renovate about five family homes in each emirate.
In the final days of Ramadan, volunteers will hold iftars with groups of people who could benefit from the companionship.
"It's not only an iftar," said Mr Al Abbasi. "The main part of the iftar is the interaction between the volunteers and the patients in the hospital, or the special-needs people."
About 350 volunteers participated last year. Mr Al Abbasi said he expects more this year because the Foundation expanded the programme's scope.
"We have different kinds of activities, not only distribution," he said.
The programme draws on cultural and religious imperative to give back during the holy month.
Ms Woodcraft said: "It's really about encouraging young people to see and understand Ramadan." Volunteers can register with Takatof online, at www.takatof.ae. – The National
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