In today's world, according to a report published by McClatchy-Tribune recently: every 3.5 seconds, someone dies of hunger.

Every 11 seconds, someone dies of Aids.

Every 15 seconds, a child dies from a water-borne illness.

1 billion people have no access to clean drinking water. 2.6 billion live without basic sanitation.

1.08 billion live on $1 or less per day. 5 million live in refugee camps. 11 million children die before they reach the age of five.

There are two ways of reacting to this list: one is to just brush it aside and be happy that you are not one of the stats. The other is to pause and ask: is there anything I can do to lessen those numbers? Is there anyway I can make a difference in the lives of those people? Fortunately for the world, there are many who belong to the latter category.

The results of a recent research conducted in Germany suggest that while human beings have to be selfish to survive, there is an innately altruistic side to them. And evidence of this can be found almost anywhere you are willing to look. There are innumerable people who are ready to spend their time, money and effort to change the lives of the less fortunate around the world.

Carolyn Lee RoeslerFamily Medicine doctor, EmiratesDr Roesler, who hails from Australia, is passionate about public health and never lost an opportunity to work with low socio-economic groups in her country. When she got the opportunity to work with Emirates airline practising Aviation and Family Medicine, she did not think twice before accepting the offer. For her, it was a golden opportunity: she could do the job she loved while having the chance to volunteer for the Emirates Foundation that runs charities in several countries around the world.

The first opportunity Dr Roesler got was to work with the Beyond the Orphanage project and the Kidane orphanage in Ethiopia.

Although Dr Roesler had seen quite a few disturbing scenes in the course of her work in Australia, nothing prepared her for Ethiopia. Aids in this country has claimed more than 68 per cent of the 75 million population in the country leaving over 5 million children orphans.

The disease wiped out almost the entire 20-40 age group, forcing children into the care of their grandparents. Not only did they have to cope with psychological and health traumas but were being forced to eke out a living quite literally on the streets. Though the situation was bleak, Dr Roesler was determined to make a positive difference in the lives of the children.

"The children were so weak and malnourished that without a meal they couldn't last out for the day," she recalls. Children as young as ten were displaying dangerous tendencies.

After her first trip sometime in 2007, Dr Roesler fell in love with the children and couldn't keep herself away. In the village of Yerer, she met Mengesha and Firewhot, an Ethiopian couple who initiated the Raey (Amharic for "vision") Child and Family Development Association. They found two sheds where they began running a school for children.

Dr Roesler joined forces with them and has been working tirelessly to educate, clothe, feed the 150 students at the orphanage who are in the age group of four to ten years.

She has four children and has adopted a fifth (a three-year-old abandoned Ethiopian orphan named Rosa). The five children live with Dr Roesler and her husband in Dubai.

It's not easy juggling life in Dubai and work in Ethiopia. Many weekends she's in Ethiopia immunising children, distributing blankets, organising food for the entire village, meeting with the grandparents of the children...

"It enriches my life, never depletes," she says. "It does occupy time but it's [never] a trade-off." What really worries her are the "time constraints'' and not being able to travel due to the work. "This is frustrating. My children and husband are very supportive and this allows me to go on regular trips and, yes, it costs.'' She spends at least one weekend a month away from home and, "Every trip costs around Dh2,000 including airfare, taxis, the materials...

"No, I never consider it a burden, but I do feel guilty [not being with the children]," though they understand her work, she says. "To an outsider it may look like great sacrifices with time commitments... costs, physical demands on visits and fund-raising and working non-stop, but to me it's not that and should not put off anyone [from doing such service]," she says. In Yerer, wheat is currency for barter. Some of the surviving parents and grandparents of her students who work in the garden or bakery are paid with wheat. She has a wonderful group of supportive nurses collating clothes and toys and many neighbours who help by donating goods.

She also has a dedicated group of volunteers (Jonathan from Emirates and Cathy Leibman from the arthritis foundation who are passionate about their work there). Other than that, many other colleagues from Emirates volunteer on weekends and holidays to help her out at the vegetable patch where she grows spinach, carrots, cabbage and broccoli; at the bakery and the school. At the bakery she bakes an Ethiopian flat bread called ‘dabo' which is served along with fresh water to kids as one meal. Then, later, a light porridge called ‘Bulla' made of a special high protein plant is served with milk. For lunch she serves ‘Injra' a special bread made of sour dough which is highly nutritious along with crushed peas.

Dr. Roesler has many plans to build more schools for children. There are 5,000 children on her waiting list. She needs to build at least four additional schools. But right now she looks at the need of each child and prioritises accordingly because the cost of caring for the kids at Raey has gone up from $6 to $8. While everyone else is paid in wheat and other kinds of grain, Mengesha is paid $50. Dr Roesler needs $50,000 to buy land and Dh30,000 for four bakeries in each school, but that has not dampened her spirit to reach out to these children and work as best as she can in the given conditions.

"Life is precious and meaningful. I think each one of us can make a difference because a child who is starved of love is the most hungry child in the world. I feel people lead very insular lives and are usually ignorant of global issues. But there are many who want to do something and do not know where to start. A lot of people come and tell me how can you make a difference by treating a few hundred children when there are millions who need to be fed and clothed. But I feel if I can see one happy child, and save one life there is no quantity attached to that feeling.

It's about the people that are being helped, and promoting the uniting of people globally to work towards a common goal: making poverty history, while aiding the billions living in terrible conditions and enabling a future and better life for all.

There are many lessons she has learnt. "It's about never saying never - I can't, I couldn't, it wont make any difference... these are things I don't like to hear. Whether it be a tummy filled, a mother having immunisations for a baby, a child learning to read, or a smiling face, I can assure you that it matters and it is all making a difference. I have always worked with lower socio-economic groups; compared to Australian standards there is a great difference with poverty experienced by Ethiopians but they all need to have trust, feel supported, feel a sense of purpose and be involved in their care. Band aid measures do not help; It's about educating, supporting and guiding and working within their means and with the ultimate goal of enabling sustainability of programmes in the local Ethiopian community.

"I have fallen in love with the beauty of the country and the people who with so much adversity, given a chance achieve wonderful things.

"Ethiopians and their extended families spend time with their children and don't have any expectations. They just want a healthy future and a future for their children. Simple needs and enormous pleasure from all we take for granted. It's always a little surreal being so peaceful and feeling so relaxed to return to the pace of Dubai and walk into one of the most opulent airports in the world three-and-a-half hours from the poorest country in the world.

"My work has certainly given a new dimension to my life, it has created unique friendships, relationships and certainly as a person I feel very blessed to have had this opportunity and life-changing work. I am lucky that I am a doctor and can obviously help in many areas but you don't need to be a doctor." She shares two simple incidents that show the impact her work has had. After a talk she gave in the American School of Dubai, a small child gave all his Christmas money to Raey.

In Yerer during a community programme, Asafay, a grandfather of one of the orphans, spoke about the hope and joy Raey had brought to his life, "He spoke of the sincere happiness we gave him by giving his grandchildren hope and a future, he never thought that would happen when he was alive, he said ‘he couldn't describe what it meant'.

"It was a momentous occasion and perfectly captured what it's about not me, not you, but all working together and making a difference."

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Henri Lemaire Head of the World Language department, American School of DubaiIf Dr Roesler has dedicated her life to education and health of Ethiopian children, Henri Lemaire has taken on the task of building homes for the homeless of the world. Head of the World Language department at the American School of Dubai, Lemaire would often do volunteer work for the Medicins Sans Frontieres, until a school initiative prompted him to sign up with the Habitat for Humanity group that builds houses for the homeless. In the last 15 years, he has been to Tanzania, Kenya, Jordan, Indonesia, Zambia, Malaysia and many other countries, building homes from scratch.

"Jobs were assigned to volunteers on the basis of their skills," Lemaire elaborates about his trip to Zambia. "The locally-available mud was compressed to make bricks which were used to raise walls. We made the roofs and the wooden frames for doors and windows. In that month over 500 homes were built in different phases, each with a kitchen, a living room and a bedroom - just basic shelters for the homeless. When you send money through a charity, you never know where it went, or who it helped. But as a volunteer here, we could see, hear and feel it all. I feel it is important for us as human beings to know and feel for the people we are helping out."Lemaire and his group of students actually stayed back to participate in a modest handover of the home to some of the homeowners. "It was amazing to see what these little shelters meant to them. At first, most of the people of the village found it hard to believe that a batch of ‘white people' had actually come from far to help them build homes for free, even while they worked in factories or fields. Once the trust was formed there was so much love, so many smiles and hugs.

"This experience has really opened my eyes to what being poor means. Everyone should have this kind of experience in his or her young adult life to be able to understand what it means to help others. It is difficult to express what it does to you but it brings this unique feeling, difficult to describe, that you are doing something good for someone else that you meet. You can see and experience the good you do.

"It takes some honest and sincere dedication of time and physical effort which is often more difficult to offer or give than money. You must feel a wish to share your wealth by giving a bit of what you have to others who will never have what you have.

"There is only one payoff: when you see the smiles on the faces of people you have helped. It's a feel-good feeling which is unique because of your involvement in a life of desperate people. Money cannot buy that; only you as a person can achieve this level of satisfaction to be shared with the less fortunate.

"I recall during our visit to Nepal where we were building a school, the then-school was in a barn and the salary a teacher got there was less than half a dollar a day. Yet the faces of the students and teachers shone with happiness.

"I told my students, ‘When you complain about your school, remember these students for whom being given a pencil was like being given a world. Our children would break a pencil just for the fun of it."

Lemaire writes to the representative of the Habitat for Humanity programme once every two years and goes to the country he is assigned with his batch of student volunteers. He is planning to travel to Malaysia and Thailand in the coming year. "I think we have to realise that we are lucky to be born in the right place at the right time and fortunate to receive the right kind of education. We have a duty towards the less fortunate. You do not have to be rich to volunteer for work like this.

"You can do things with your own skills, your willingness to work and loads of goodwill for the people you are working for," says Lemaire who is steadfast in his work with the Habitat for Humanity.

"Nothing else has given me more satisfaction than seeing the joy on the faces of homeless people who suddenly realise they have a roof over their head. It has also taught our students to respect labourers who create our structures and dwellings with their hard work."

We would all like to do our bit for the society but our ways of giving back can be widely diverse. Sometimes, giving back lingers on our to-do list but as the minutiae of daily living overtakes everything else, our good intentions become the small print we read when we have the time. Sometimes not at all.

Julie Amer,Runs Mountain High, an adventure sports company in Dubai

For Julie Amer, who runs an adventure sports company Mountain High, her concept of giving back to her community is linked to her work. She began the sports company to create a health culture in society and wants to bring joy into the lives of people by making them acutely aware

of the dangers of various diseases like

breast cancer, osteoporosis, and so on.

"When I set up Mountain High back in 2003 the mission was to inspire, empower and encourage as many people as possible, in particular women, to step out of their comfort zone, unlock their true potential, connect with new cultures, take charge of their health and get into action to make a difference through adventure challenges and retreats. Several of our challenges over the last six years have been linked to raising awareness and funds for breast cancer: Tickled Pink Series, Everest Trek, Arctic Challenge, Tickled Pink Paddlers (first breast cancer survivors dragon boat team). In addition, we have set up challenges to raise awareness for diabetes, heart disease in women and osteoporosis. Mountain High is my way.

"The health campaigns give added meaning and purpose to the passion that drives the projects. My satisfaction at seeing survivors of diseases empowered and optimistic is my biggest payoff!"

For those who are deeply committed to charity work, and for others who hold it in great respect and dream of one day being able to do their bit, there's one important thing to grasp: it is not a magic pill. Giving is work in progress and that is perhaps how it should be. That is what keeps the people involved in charity work going and it's what attracts newcomers who have spotted the desire in volunteers and are looking for a way to join the workforce.

Kapil Dev SharmaPrivate wealth manager in Dubai

For Kapil Dev Sharma, a private wealth manager, the concept of charity is very much a part of the culture of India from where he hails. "I feel making someone's life a little better, providing basic facilities to the underprivileged, giving something back to the community, society, environment, wildlife, and so on defines giving."

He wants to do his bit for each one of these fields but has still to get round to it. "I would like to do things for a variety of charities and start this in a smaller way by doing something very basic like sponsoring a child's education for life. Once I have begun that, I would be only to happy to do more. The greatest good of the largest numbers."