Hesham Mohammad Shabana Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai

We recently marked the fact that Gulf News has nearly 700,000 likes on its Facebook page and about 200,000 followers on Twitter. And the reason for this growth is attributed to reader interactivity and the focus the newspaper places on being credible and relevant. We connect, communicate and are accountable.

Our community reports are a layer in that connectivity with our readers. It takes hyper-local content to a national level, and sometimes to a global scale.

Social media plays an important role in working with communities, as many issues are now being raised by readers via these channels. It has helped us listen and hear from a lot more voices.

Each month, as I judge the reports for the placement of winners, I’m struck by the fact that each and every community reporter has made a concerted effort to bring change to the existing circumstance. And that is not easy. Many of us do want to make a difference but only a few go that extra mile. So, choosing three out of a set of 30 or more exemplary pieces of social responsibility is not even a remotely enviable task.

I try and pick those that raise a new issue, are well written, offer a good illustrative photograph and cover as many aspects of the problem as possible. Sometimes, the reader is reiterating an existing problem and that gets selected, because it meets the other criteria, along with the fact that raising it again will help boost awareness. We look for crowd-sourced work that follows the principles of traditional journalism - it is based on facts, is relevant and adds value to a reader.

I’m explaining this, so that readers are aware of how the winners are picked and continue to actively pursue reporting from the ground level for the newspaper.

Our first place winner is Gulf News reader Michael Manlogon, for his September 2 community report, “Recycling helps spread education”. The article talked about how he was working to help children in the Philippines, who had lost everything in the various typhoons, to get an education and achieve some semblance of normalcy in their lives. Manlogon was fundraising to help send children to school by recycling aluminium cans. What an innovative and practical idea!

At second place is the September 25 report, “Women-only section in Metro being used by male passengers”, by Nisha Prince. This is an extremely valid concern that several women readers have raised with the newspaper in the past. The Roads and Transport Authority are monitoring the issue. We request all our readers who are Metro users to respect the rules of the transport system, and to escalate any violations witnessed promptly.

Third place goes to the September 8 report by Hesham Mohammad, “Littering one’s environment can expose others to risk of disease”. The photograph accompanying this article was literally worth a thousand words. The sight of the piled up rubbish was appalling. How could people use a pedestrian bridge as a garbage skip? It belies all belief.

Is there an issue in your community that needs to be raised? Write to us at readers@gulfnews.com and be an agent for change. You can also post on our Facebook page, Instagram us on @gulfnews or tweet to us @GNReaders.

PROFILES:

First: Michael Del Moro Manlogon

Michael Del Moro Manlogon, a Filipino national based in Abu Dhabi, wrote about his campaign to raise funds for the less fortunate children in the Philippines.

He said: “This platform is an informative section and it gives more opportunity to every individual or organisation to spread a good message. And at the same time it shows people how they can assist those in need. It gives recognition to those who are struggling to make a small contribution to the community, but create a big impact on the society. Gulf News granted me the space to set an example to the younger generation by teaching them about helping people in need.”

Manlogon says he was overwhelmed by the response that he received after his report was published.

He said: “I received several emails from friends and individuals from other parts of the country. At the same time I received more support from different organisations, like restaurants and small cafeterias. I meet new friends, and I was able to motivate others to recycle. A simple act of recycling helps make a big difference.”

Second: Nisha Prince

Nisha Prince, an advocate based in Dubai, raised the issue of men entering the cabin dedicated to women and children in the Dubai Metro.

She said: “Community reports in Gulf News is definitely a good platform for common people to raise their issues. We feel encouraged to express our opinion and share our concerns with other readers and the authorities. It also helps us find the right solution for the issue at hand.”

She says she wrote to the newspaper because she was frustrated and couldn’t find any other medium to express her concerns.

She said: “The report was a result of the frustration of several commuters in the women’s cabin every day. I have noticed many women feeling the same way as I do, but are not ready to speak up. That’s when I took the initiative and raised it with Gulf News. I received a lot of appreciation from my colleagues when they knew I was the one who reported the issue.”

Third: Hesham Mohammad Shabana

Hesham Mohammad Shabana, an Egyptian national based in Sharjah, wrote about the issue of people littering and people’s nonchalant behaviour towards it.

He said: “I think writing to the newspaper was a good start. When we as residents encounter such things, we can take a positive step in order to somehow alert the authorities, who will take the right and necessary actions.”

Shabana says he is only trying to do his part in changing the world and making it a better place.

He said: “Through my community report I hoped to raise awareness amongst the readers to bring about positive change and by pointing our what’s wrong I hope people will stop doing it. Also, my friends and family will now be more alert about issues around them and will take pictures of things that are wrong to be raised with the authorities.”

Profiles compiled by Rabab Khan/Community Interactivity Editor