If you have ever had a guilty conscience about food wastage, fear not because the Emirates Red Crescent project called Preservation of Grace serves to eliminate wasted food by collecting untouched leftovers and giving it to those in need.
According to their webpage www.abudhabi.ae: “Preservation of Grace is divided into several sections with an aim to reduce the wastage of food and other commodities and reach out to needy families in all possible ways through the redistribution of food, clothes, furniture and medicine.”
Colloquially referred to as Saving Grace, the Abu Dhabi based project has grown substantially in the past 10 years that it has been running. From one car in 2005 for collecting food to 25 cars to date, this project that is supported by Shaikha Shamsa Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan, Assistant to the President of Emirates Red Crescent for Women’s Affairs, has gained a lot of momentum.
The Saving Grace project manager Sultan Al Shehi, in speaking about the initial years of the project, said: “Suddenly, we were facing many people who wanted to contribute to charity in a nice and hygienic way.”
A team collects food from events, palaces, restaurants and hotels that would otherwise be wasted. Depending on the size of the food donation, they will bring a team in to collect it themselves. In that case they are instructing people on the proper way to package and store their donations.
Sultan said: “They call us. Our team goes there, but first we ask how much food they have. If it’s 50 headcount at the event and above, we can go there. If it’s less, we tell them how to properly pack up the food.”
They also encourage families and individuals to do the same – how to make saving grace in your house.
It has been a crucial step in the project to promote hygiene and to package leftover food “nicely” and with respect – a way to respect the people they are helping. This means putting good food properly into neat boxes for distribution. Of course, the project double checks all food before distribution with the help of the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority, but it is also about making people socially aware and respectful of those less fortunate.
Saving Grace has been successful throughout the UAE and it has expanded into other methods of donation. They have gone into clothing donations. Just like the food, it is equally important to give nice, respectable and clean articles of clothing.
In Abu Dhabi they opened Kesa Laundromat, which serves the project in many aspects. They clean the clothes before donation, but they also give newly weds the opportunity to lend out their wedding clothes to those in need.
Al Shehi said: “At weddings, people have wedding clothes and we are giving them to the poor to wear and give back.”
So the laundromat works to clean the wedding clothes before giving them back. Additionally, with the support of the UAE Red Crescent, individuals can use the laundry shop for regular use with its profits going back into Saving Grace for sustaining the project. Abu Dhabi’s Kesa Laundromat has had such a positive result for the project that they are looking to expand into the other emirates.
Most recently, the project has expanded into furniture donations. Making collections and either donating to the poor or selling it to fund the project, much like Kesa Laundromat.
Ramadan is a busy time of year for Preservation of Grace as there are many residents throughout the UAE actively looking for ways to donate to charity. They are also collecting from iftars around the country to distribute food for suhoor in the morning. According to their webpage they are also working in collaboration with Adnoc with their ‘Breaking the Fast’ campaign “targeting Abu Dhabi bound motorists shortly before the call for the Maghrib prayer, in an attempt to encourage them not to rush into breaking the fast, thus significantly avoiding accidents caused by speeding”.
Ramadan is coming and if you thought food wastage was bad, it gets worse – big time. Gulf News report, ‘Food wastage in UAE by the numbers’, in 2014 gave shocking figures of the amount of food wasted in the UAE. At least 38 per cent of food is wasted in Dubai throughout the year, but during Ramadan, this number reaches 55 per cent.
The report also said that according to the Abu Dhabi municipality: “39 per cent of the 1.1 million tonnes of municipal waste generated in Abu Dhabi each year is leftover food discarded by residents.”
The volunteers that have helped with this project wish to remain anonymous as they feel strongly that their charity work is between themselves and God. In speaking with two residents in the UAE that have volunteered, they praise the project and encourage others to get involved.
One volunteer said: “The grace project is taking the extra food and passing it to the people in need. Now the project expanded to be three: clothing, medicine and furniture. It’s a priceless charity project. There is no losing volunteering in this project, in this life or the next.”
The second volunteer willing to be interviewed, Saeed Ali, felt the imbalance of the over consumption of residents and their wasting when there are God’s creatures suffering from hunger.
Ali said: “It is preserving us from throwing God’s graces in the garbage where nobody benefits from – not humans or animals. So I advise all to try volunteering in this project to help others when there are places in the world where people can’t find any food to eat at all.”