Dubai: Gulf News reader Fatima Suhail’s community report was quite shocking, especially the pictures. It was rather surprising to see the civic conditions of the flea market in the Capital. Stories like these bring home the value and necessity of community journalists for the newspaper.

Although we would love to be all seeing, it is not physically possible for us to do so. In such circumstances the lack is fulfilled by our reader journalists, who drive it forward because they believe that every person in society makes a difference.

We are also aided in this process by our social media channels, again tools that are used very effectively by our readers every day. There is a term for it in journalese - ‘crowdsourcing’, although to me that far from tells the scope of reader contribution. Community journalism describes it better and conveys what it does on a larger scale.

Suhail was awarded first place for the value, insight and news sense displayed in her community report, ‘Unhygienic conditions prevail at the Mussafah flea market’, published on January 29, 2014.

Second place was for the January 24 report, ‘Bus drivers rise to the occasion to save a life’, by Kay Ivanova. It was such a delightful and heartwarming story of human generosity despite adverse conditions. To be able to care for another living being, especially when your own circumstances are difficult is indicative of the reasons why the world still functions. If all of us were wrapped in our selfish little cocoons, we would all perish eventually. We were honoured to be able to feature the schoolbus drivers in the report.

Third place was given to reader Almas Farid for her January 22 report, ‘Where do we go for a walk?’, about the lack of jogging or walking tracks in Sharjah. Obesity is a major issue in the UAE and we are all aware of the fact. There are numerous government camapigns and media reports that repeatedly bring this issue to the fore. In light of this, it would, indeed, be beneficial to have public places that people could specifically use for recreational purposes at a miminal charge. We hope the Sharjah authorities will look into this request.

January saw some excellent reportage by readers. We hope to continue seeing that calibre of work.

First: Fatima Suhail

Published on January 29, 2015

Fatima Suhail, a student based in Sharjah, wrote about a flea market in the Mussafah area in Abu Dhabi and its deplorable conditions.

She said: “Abu Dhabi is one of the most developed cities in the world. There are numerous mega projects in progress but there is more than meets the eye. It is rare that we witness a sight such as the one at the flea market, that left me in a state of shock. It was unusual to come across vendors selling fruit and vegetables by the roadside and abandoned and dusty vehicles being used to display secondhand items. Despite all this, everybody at the market appeared happy and content. It was my inability and helplessness of not being able to do something for these people that compelled me to write to Gulf News. I felt it was necessary to raise awareness about how some people are struggling to make ends meet.

“My family and friends were as shocked and saddened by the state of affairs as anybody else would have been seeing those photographs and reading the detailed account. They all encouraged me to raise this issue. We are hopeful that following the report’s publication, the authorities will take immediate measures concerning the plight of these workers.

“I cannot thank Gulf News enough for providing us the community reports platform where issues such as these are taken seriously and solutions sought.”


Second: Kay Ivanova

Published on January 24, 2015

Kay Ivanova, a Dubai resident, highlighted the story of three bus drivers and how they saved a kitten’s life. The drivers found the kitten injured on the side of a road and brought her to the group, 38Smiles, to recover.

She is the founder of 38Smiles, a non-profit animal rescue group of like-minded people determined to help stray animals. They rescue stray animals, foster them and help them recover and find a home. They also organise TNR — trap, neuter and release — for stray cats and organise adoption days.

Ivanova said: “Animal rescue is the main focus of 38Smiles. What was fascinating in this case is the three school bus drivers going out of their way to rescue animals in need when most people would just walk off. Community reports do help to bring the message across and get more people interested and involved in animal welfare.”


Third: Almas Farid

Published on January 22, 2015

Almas Farid, a Sharjah resident, raised the issue of a lack of jogging tracks in Sharjah and hopes that the authorities will build more tracks and parks for the sake of the health of its residents.

She said: “I think community reports is the best platforms to get messages such as mine to people living around our cities. I believe it will help raise awareness amongst people about minor to major issues. The authorities are doing their best, but I believe by being a resident of any country we have certain responsibilities to keep the country clean and raise our issues to get better solutions.

“The reason I wrote about this issue is because I say what I see. Additionally, many people who I have spoken to also agree with me; we need to have secure areas or platforms for women to walk in Sharjah. Walking is good for one’s health and we can avoid several diseases by going for a short walk every day.”