Dubai. One minute she’s at the general surgery ward, the next she’s at the hospital’s emergency section. She sweeps past the white halls in a rush, anyone following her will surely have a hard time keeping up.
To some, she is known as Mrs Gouri or Pam. But to many forgotten and abandoned souls in UAE hospitals, she is their Godsend.
“The man we’re meeting is a diabetic. He’s an amputee and we’re taking him to the airport tonight so he can go back to India and be with his family,” Pam, 54, an Indian expatriate who has been in the UAE for 33 years, tells Gulf News.
The full-time social worker and mother-of-three is just one of the veteran volunteers at Valley of Love (VoL), a non-profit non-government organisation that helps the needy across the UAE. She tirelessly walks from one ward to the next, clutching a purse and a phone on one hand, and a plastic envelope with papers on the other.
She opens the envelope, photocopies the sheets of paper inside, and hands them over to the Case Management officer at Rashid Hospital. The papers—air tickets and out passes—serve as lifeline to patients who mostly have no one to call family, nor a single friend for a visitor.
Wherever Pam goes, hospital staffs smile at her and greet her. Her presence is like an enigma, with a sense of positive energy quietly flowing from one person to the next.
Minutes later, an Indian man in his 50s named Moideen comes out of his room in a wheelchair. He takes out a plastic shower cap and wraps his right foot with it in preparation for his trip. His left foot had been cut off. Pam wheels Moideen along the hall, takes him into her car, and drives to the airport. The whole trip is quiet, save for a few exchanges of last-minute reminders. Before alighting, Pam discreetly hands over some cash to Moideen.
Unlike many well-wishers at the airport, Pam’s task doesn’t end there. She personally checks him in for his flight and makes sure he is handed over to airport officials who will take care of his needs for the rest of his flight. She breathes a sigh of relief; it is already 10pm.
“We work like an ambulance, we work anytime of the day, 24 hours,” she says with a smile.
Almost six years back when she first joined VoL, coming home late from doing social work could mean trouble.
“Initially, they [family] were very reluctant and very hesitant to it but as time passed by, they knew what exactly it is that I’m doing, they became okay with it,” explains Pam.
Being a hospital coordinator for VoL is just one of the organization’s many services. Other VoL volunteers lend a hand to blue-collared workers and families in need, regardless of nationality and religion.
Whether it’s getting official documents from consulates, immigration, court and police, to procuring medicines, wheelchairs, to identifying and repatriating unclaimed bodies, VoL volunteers are there running around, literally, to get things done with the support of local hospitals and authorities.
They are footsoldiers on a mission to serve. And when asked if there’s anything she expects in return, Pam says, “Not at all…just a smile.” And this she gets plentifully every single day.
At 9am the following day, Pam is ready for action yet again. Akashmiya and Gaurav are her two cases at Dubai Hospital. The former is an illegal worker who recently had a heart attack while the latter has overstayed and is suffering from a problem in his abdomen.
Both patients’ eyes lit up upon seeing her. Gaurav can finally go home but Akashmiya will have to wait some more. Truly blessed
“I feel so truly blessed like you know a person who can’t walk for himself, you’re walking for him. A person who cannot eat for himself, you are able to feed him. God has given us a body which is complete and you can be useful for somebody who is not as fortunate as you,” says Pam, who is inspired by Mother Teresa’s example.
For this day, at least, Pam is walking for Froilan, a 65-year-old Filipino amputee at Rashid Hospital. He needs to process his documents at the immigration in Al Aweer before he can fly back home.
But after going from one building to another, Pam comes back with a sad face. They will have to go back the next day.
“I don’t like going back to the hospital without finishing a case, I don’t feel good. I’m sure the patients are disappointed, too,” she says.
Pam drops off Froilan in the hospital, then runs errands for her other cases. She picks up a quick takeaway lunch at Burger King to save on time.
With a burger on one hand and the wheel on the other, Pam is still able to burn phone lines and take calls through bluetooth for new cases and coordination with other volunteers.
“Each day is controlled by our telephone,” says Joseph Bobby, another veteran VoL volunteer who by then has joined Pam to visit two family cases they’re handling in Sharjah.
“Some days we have plans what to do for tomorrow, some days it just comes through phone,” adds Joseph.
While these volunteers go out of their way to fix other people’s woes, they are not exempt from getting their own, too. But only that of a different kind.
“Our main problem is sometimes there is less [social] work,” says Joseph.
“That is the day when we feel very lonely, very down. But when you’re completely busy, we are not bothered about anything,” he adds.
Before ending the day, Joseph and Pam visit two families they are helping in Sharjah. The first family had lost everything—including a family business of 30 years—during the recession. VoL helped the family financially especially with for the delivery of their youngest member two weeks ago. The next were two kids, ages six and three, whose parents are in jail.
They interact, spend time, and listen to the families. At one point, Pam calls the six-year-old girl to her side and combs and braids her hair in a motherly fashion.
“My mum used to do this for me,” Pam says, lovingly tucking the child’s hair in a rubber band. Both kids have no one for now, so every single act of kindness will surely mean a lot.
With the many cases they have per day, Gulf News asked which type is the most difficult to handle. Pam replies, “Nothing is difficult; everything can be done with God’s grace.”
“Before I was working with my husband for so many years. In the evening, I was home after the kids came back from school. But somewhere inside me, I wasn’t really feeling that that was what I wanted to do or what I wanted to achieve,” says Pam.
Becoming a volunteer has filled that void. “There is no comparison to it. It’s completely different,” says Pam.
“The sense of fulfillment, the sense of satisfaction you get in this, I don’t think any amount of money, any amount of business, I don’t think anything can give you that satisfaction at all, at least for my experience.”