RDS_120212_WINNERS Firdos A Poonawala a Gulf News community report winner ? photo ZARINA FERNANDES/ GULFNEWS


Life is short. Life is unpredictable. Life can be harsh. Each of these was illustrated by last week’s story from Turkey that started with the photograph of a three-year-old boy lying face down on the shore of a beach. His name - Aylan Kurdi. His status - refugee.

He drowned while trying to cross the Aegean Sea to Kos in Greece, along with his family, fleeing the atrocities of Daesh on his hometown of Kobani in Syria. His family had hoped to find a safe tomorrow but, instead, they found refuge in death.

The tragedy galvanised Western nations to take action, especially as Aylan’s family’s asylum application had been previously rejected by Canadian immigration authorities due to some technical reasons. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has driven this change of heart to a great extent.

What this report highlighted was that sometimes issues, despite people being aware of it, need to be brought to the fore to garner corrective action. In this case a child paid too high a price for world leaders to pay attention - it will forever weigh heavy on our collective conscience. But, you cannot ignore the fact that change needs a catalyst.

Community reports, too, drive change - at a hyper local level. They raise problems that exist, and many are aware of but few bother to call for action on. And for this, we commend each and every one of our community reporters.

Summer is usually a slow month because many of our writer-reporters are away on a break. Despite that, we received some very strong articles in August. So, picking the top three was a tough process.

First place goes to the report, “Informal street barbers pose health risks to customers”, published on August 29. It was filed by one of our younger community reporters, Venkatesan Sundar. He had initially filed a straight report, but we sent him back to the site to further investigate the matter. He managed to do that effectively. The result was a story that tells of an extremely serious problem brewing near the labour camps, which if not checked could fuel the spread of many diseases. It is a well done piece of work that any journalist should be happy with.

Second place goes to a report filed by Chantelle Atkins, titled “Abandoned by owners and living in pain”. It was published on August 29, too. A harsh tale of extreme abuse and human callousness. A dog had been used as a live target and left to die. The story stunned us at the desk, at the level of cruelty that had been afflicted on this one-year-old animal. Humans presume to be superior by virtue of cognitive ability but when you encounter such behaviour, this claim seems rather flawed. What sort of society do we live in that finds this kind of behaviour acceptable? Animal rights ignored for so long, need to be addressed - that is the true mark of civilization.

Third place goes to the report, “Some areas may not be able to handle fire”, raised by Firdos Abdeali Poonawala. It was published on August 3. Fire safety is a major issue, especially as most do not pay heed to how hazardous we make our daily lives with carelessness and ignorance. The community reporter talks about how some areas are not prepared to handle a fire, which will have disastrous results in case of a fire. We all need to be aware and ideally take a training course or at least acquire some level of knowledge. The Civil Defence is a good resource to contact and seek advice from.



Venkatesan Sundar

Published on August 29, 2015

The reader is a grade six student of Delhi Private School, Sharjah. Sundar’s investigative community report revealed the unsanitary practice of street-side barber stalls in a labour accommodation site, in Dubai. He said: “Community reports provide the right platform to create awareness and turn the spotlight on situations that truly impact our lives. When we, as residents, witness such things, we can take a positive step in order to alert the authorities, who will take the necessary and right action. By raising this issue, I believe to have fulfilled my duty as a responsible member of the society. Whether at the individual or community level, if we all become more responsible by doing the right thing, our world will definitely become a better place, to live in.”


Chantelle Atkins

Published on August 29, 2015

The reader is an Abu Dhabi-based dance and fitness instructor.

Atkins’ Save an Animal story about an injured dog named Becky was a moving example of the sorry state of abandoned and abused animals in the UAE.

She said: “I do hope that my report made an impact. All the rescue facilities are in desperate need of help, donations and government support. It is really hard and financially draining work and we all do it by volunteering. If we can just make a difference in one animal’s life, it means we are giving it a new beginning. As a community, we need to be more active, and as individuals, get actively involved and start making a difference. Volunteer, donate, foster and/or adopt. Every bit of money and help the rescue facilities get is one step closer to saving an animal.”


Firdos Abdeali Poonawala

Published on August 3, 2015

The reader is a Dubai-based sales manager. He is no stranger to the community reports platform. He has raised several issues in the past, on various aspects of the community that he feels need improvement.

In his winning community report, Poonawala highlighted the need for better fire safety preparedness in residential buildings. He said: “By doing our part to contribute to the community, we add people to our circle of influence and gain opportunities to build relationships with our neighbours. We also demonstrate what it means to be a good resident – to our children.”

— Profiles by Sanya Nayeem/Deputy Readers Editor