Starting From The Bottom: Why The UAE Should Nurture Volunteering

The UAE is the real life example of Starting From The Bottom. The malls you see springing everywhere, the skyscrapers, the million dollar cars and the luxurious handbags thrown on every girls’ shoulder – these are all just modern day perks that the UAE indulged in after the exploitation of oil, and the looming past is not easy to forget. The crazy thing is, there are people in the UAE who have seen both worlds, the fierce and hell-ish life of bedouins traveling around in an endless desert, and todays’ consumer society on steroids where even bus-stops are fitted with ACs.

But the great thing that came out of this skyrocketing path to wealth and comfort is the fact that Emiratis didn’t forget where they came from, and what their responsibilities are towards others less fortunate. No wonder  they are kind of the good guys in the middle of a screwed up region. Generosity, kindness, donations and humanitarian work are just a few things that describe the country greatest characteristics, whose population is the largest and most prolific donor per capita, and whose last Dh506.2 million donations this year made it one of the most generous countries on Earth when it comes to humanitarian relief work and charity.

There is no reason not to admire and appreciate the work the UAE is doing at home and abroad, and there is no one better to confirm this than the millions of beneficiaries in Asia and Africa who have had the chance to benefit from well drilling, vaccination and education campaigns launched by the country and its aid agencies. The pressing question now is: how long can this last?

I mean, there is no denial that generosity is a key aspect of the Emirati culture, but as new generations of locals form the new bricks of the UAE communal tissue, there is a fear that complacency, entitlement and loss of understanding of what moral duties locals should pursue and uphold, may lead to a decreasing role of the UAE on the international humanitarian scene. Granted, there have been continuous efforts to balance wealth and affluence with social obligations like the establishment of compulsory military service, yet there is still a lack of strong volunteering culture among the Emirati youth.

It is time to have stronger initiatives that can bring UAE locals closer to international conflicts and sufferings in order to remind them that, while there is a small place where peace and wealth are common currency, the rest of the place is in dire need for international actors to come in and be of value, whether it is through money, skills, pro-bono or actual physical volunteering. How to do that? Well for starters, it may be a good idea to spend summer holidays in conflict zones trying to help rather than always go for the usual London or Monaco family trip. Incorporating great volunteering schemes within the educational system as required components (Take International Baccalaureate as an example) may be the answer, and changing perceptions through media about volunteering can help drive greater volunteering among UAE youth.

Well, if you’re looking at the right place to start in, have a look at the work of Volunteering UAE, Dubai Cares and Emirates Foundation.




Photo Credit: Volunteer in UAE

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