Dubai: We felt it was time to give the winners more of a voice. So, we are changing the format of the page a bit. We hope you like it, and it will encourage many more to join in the grassroots movement that is Gulf News community reporting.
The Your Turn pages give and have given thousands of UAE residents a place to be part of an active change that benefits communities, because we have the greatest respect and admiration for those who plant trees whose shade they might or might not enjoy.
Coming to the winners for October, first place goes to Shobhika Kala for the report, “More awareness needed for wheelchair accessibility”, published on October 28. She talks about the need to make our cities more available to people with limited mobility.
Second place goes to Charvi Khandelwal for her report, “Lack of signals hampers pedestrians from crossing street”, published on October 25. She has raised an issue faced by many readers — pedestrian crossings without signals on busy streets. Perhaps there is a clear reason in urban planning for this and is not an oversight. But, as the population increases, these crossings need to be re-evaluated by the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).
Third place goes to Varghese John for his report, “Issues faced in International City need to be resolved at the earliest”, published on October 19. He raises several problems, especially the misuse of civic amenities in the area and the lack of sufficient parking. As the population density of the area increases, so does the fight for space. The matter was escalated with the property developer and they have promised to address the issues.
We cannot wait for someone else to solve our problems — we have to seize the day, the moment and do the right thing. So, be a Gulf News community reporter - be the change. You can contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 04 4067666.
FIRST: Shobhika Kalra
Published on October 28, 2017
Shobhika Kalra, a 27-year-old Indian national based in Dubai, tried to raise awareness about the need for ramps around Dubai through her report. At the young age of 13 years, she was diagnosed with Friedreich Ataxia, a degenerative disorder that affects the nervous system. During a visit to India in 2014, she went to see a movie with her sister at a popular cinema chain. However, there was no ramp to reach her seat and people had to carry her to it. This incident proved to be a turning point in her life.
Today, 14 years later, she is fighting for her rights and for others who are wheelchair bound, just like her, through her social initiative Wings of Angelz.
She said: “The biggest issue related to improving wheelchair accessibility is the lack of awareness. It is very helpful to get messages across to a lot of people through community reports as Gulf News is widely read. You can deal with the root of the problem.”
After her report was published, Kalra says her group received a lot of positive feedback from Gulf News readers. Since she began her mission, Wings of Angelz has been quite successful. In the past three years, over 700 ramps have been built at different locations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Their list of successes include banks, restaurants, cafes and other retailers.
Through this initiative, Kalra doesn’t just hope to make accessibility for those in wheelchairs easier, but also hopes to show that being in a wheelchair shouldn’t stop you from living.
She said: “I’m currently working as a psychologist, run a beauty blog and lead the social initiative. The journey has been difficult, but with the help of my family and friends, I have managed to get this far.”
SECOND: Charvi Khandelwal
Published on October 25, 2017
Charvi Khandelwal, a 12-year-old pupil based in Dubai, highlighted the lack of a signal for pedestrians on Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Street in the Al Mankhool area, Dubai. It becomes difficult for pedestrians to cross the street, as motorists don’t stop, despite there being a designated crossing.
She said: “I feel that community reports help in getting one’s message across to other people. Community reports are a great platform as they help in conveying one’s message to the masses.”
After her report was published, Khandelwal received a lot of positive responses from everyone she knows. Her efforts were appreciated because it is a matter of concern for other people, who use the road frequently, “but would not have written a report about it”.
So, she decided to write to the newspaper to raise awareness regarding the issue and also to practice her writing skills.
She said: “My favourite subjects in school are English and mathematics. I participate in the Olympiad organised by the Science Olympiad Foundation every year. Last year, my efforts paid off when I earned the 25th position at the International English Olympiad (IEO).”
She loves to read and draw and has recently prioritised writing as one of her main interests. “I am glad to be chosen as a winner for the community report competition; it has motivated me to be a more active part of the community,” she added.
THIRD: Varghese John
Published on October 19, 2017
Varghese John, a sales administrator based in Dubai, wanted to highlight the different issues the residents of International City have to face through his community report. Having lived there for seven years, he thought it necessary to be the voice of others who witness the issues, but don’t know who to address.
He said: “Community reports are a good platform to enlighten the authorities and request them for remedial steps to be taken for the issues pointed out by the readers. People have supported me and expressed their satisfaction that my report got the attention of the developers, who took action to address the problems.”
Despite the advance in technology, John still believes in the power of the newspaper. Every morning, he makes it a point to read the paper, not log on to social media or any news websites.
He said: “I love to read the newspaper. I get to know all the important news from the past day and I get a sense of satisfaction in holding the paper. You don’t get the same feeling or level of enjoyment when reading news online. It’s like a complete package.”
Apart from reading, he loves to travel with his family and ensures that they take an annual trip together for some quality time together.
— Profiles compiled by Rabab Khan/Community Interactivity Editor