Dubai: An increasing number of residents are channelling their spare time, talent and energy to help others in the community.
Volunteering hours in Dubai have more than doubled in the first nine months of the year compared to the whole of 2015 thanks to a smart application by Dubai’s Community Development Authority (CDA) that also saves the agency time, money and manpower.
CDA’s Volunteer App has made volunteering in Dubai easy and more accessible. The app is being reintroduced at this year’s Gitex Technology Week along with the newly revamped CDA website, in the presence of CDA director-general Khalid Al Kamda and other senior officials.
“Volunteering opportunities and volunteering hours have jumped [significantly]. This year, we have 52 per cent active volunteers from our target of 25 per cent. Also, from just 24,000 volunteering hours clocked from January to December 2015, we now have 57,547 hours from January to September this year,” Hana Bakkar Al Harthi, director of Social Cohesion Department at CDA, told Gulf News.
Although volunteering does not directly inject money into the economy, it does have a contribution. The volunteering hours for the first nine months of the year are equivalent to Dh4.7 million based on CDA’s calculation.
In 2009, volunteering work in Dubai was institutionalised as part of CDA’s mandate. It was formally organised in 2012 to promote a volunteering culture in the emirate.
Volunteering work in Dubai can range from providing support to exhibitions and government activities, renovating homes of elderly Emiratis who cannot afford it, visiting and reading books to the elderly, participating in clean-up drives and other projects, and teaching horse-riding to children with disabilities, among others.
Al Harthi said the volunteering app has made all the difference in CDA’s Volunteering Programme. After launching it in Gitex Technology Week last year, CDA boosted the app after considering suggestions and improvements from volunteers themselves to make volunteering easy.
Al Harthi said they have streamlined the process to register a volunteer and volunteering work by cutting down redundant steps.
The app, which is in Arabic and English, provides real-time notifications to volunteers on all volunteering opportunities, number of volunteers needed, tasks required, exact location of the event, and the time-in and time-out for volunteers.
Besides helping volunteers manage and plan their volunteering calendar throughout the year, the app has also helped CDA save its resources. The department used to spend Dh1.4 million on overheads and villa rent to run the volunteering programme.
“With the app, our investment was less than 20 per cent of whatever we had invested in those two years,” Al Harthi said, adding that work at the back office was also cut dramatically.
Al Harthi is optimistic that more residents will be inspired to give back to the community now that the process has become easier.
“The community over here has helped all of us to grow and become a better person and has given us a lot of security, shelter, proper income, and safety. Think of it as a sense of belonging to this community. If you volunteer, you feel that you’re strengthening your root in this community and you become more engaged with it.”
VOLUNTEERING AT A GLANCE:
Total number of registered volunteers: 5,536 total volunteers: 2,500 active volunteers
Breakdown: 80% Emiratis; 8% Arabs; 12% Asians, Westerners, and others
Age range: Youngest is 10 and oldest is 70
Most active age range: 16 to 35
Most in demand volunteering work: Horseback Riding Programme for Children With Disabilities