Priyanka Varghese Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: These are tough times for many people. The job market has become highly competitive and the cost of living is rising. Every day, I see posts, emails and receive phone calls that are a commentary on the relatively tough life that the average person is living.

We live with amenities that are of global standards, and every day there is a new development that aims to make everything faster and more efficient. So, we cannot truly complain. However, there are still core issues that add to stress levels, such as healthcare, rents, education of children and overall household budget management.

Added to this are the numerous demands of daily living, in terms of time, attention and tasks. At the end of the day, there are few who don’t collapse onto their beds in a heap of exhaustion. In such a scenario, would you blame people for apathy? Definitely not.

So, it is extremely commendable when people take time out from this vicious pace of life to register a report about a community problem. Be it the ill treatment of animals or poor road etiquette by drivers against pedestrians. They have taken the effort to say something that affects the larger good of people, people they don’t know but whose wellbeing they care about. And that is social consciousness. Without these inspirational warriors who firmly believe that every drop of water in the ocean matters, all our lives would be poorer with that one more added problem that was never raised.

So, today I take the opportunity to thank all our community reporters over the past eight years, who made the effort on behalf of all of us.

Our top winner for the month of August is a heartwarming story by Priyanka Varghese, a banker based in Sharjah. She lost her pet dog. They did everything possible to find the animal but to no avail. Nine months later she surfaced in a picture posted by a rescue service on a commercial online classifieds website. Varghese was united with Chiku. The generosity of strangers brought a beloved pet back to a family. The report, ‘Don’t buy, rather adopt a pet’, was published on August 2. And the banker used the opportunity to pay it forward by urging other animal lovers to home rescued animals rather than funding pet shops.

Second place goes to a second community report published on August 2, too, ‘Careless attitude can cause accidents’. It is by Nitin Kumar, a reader who works as a sales coordinator based in Dubai. The article raised the important issue of extremely poor conduct by drivers against pedestrians, wherein they will not give way to people at crossings, despite the traffic rule that requires them to. He is afraid for the lives of the many who attempt to get across at signals while avoiding speeding motorists.

Third place goes not to a person but to the Sharjah Municipality for their exemplary response rate to civic issues. A report or complaint is raised, and they respond as promptly as possible, setting an example. This recognition is a commendation for the community service rendered.

As always, I would like to end by urging more people in the community to come forward and be active community reporters. Be the change.



First: Priyanka Varghese

Priyanka Varghese is a banker who has been living in the UAE for 14 years. She believes that each one of us should work towards making a difference to our surroundings.

She said: “We all read the news every day. But, are we making a difference to the world we are living in? I strongly believe that each one of us is born to make a difference; whether small or big. It is extremely important and essential to share what you have with the ones who are less fortunate. I feel it is the responsibility of every individual living in this country to contribute to the social wellbeing in some way or the other to add value to their own life and to society.”

Varghese says that writing community reports will help the “common man bring forth their views to the world”.

She said: “Through our reports we can educate people around us. I feel that every individual has a say and an opinion, and it really counts. I received many congratulatory messages for my report and on finding my canine, and it has created a lot of awareness among people that non-profit organisations do exist for the wellbeing of animals. Many people asked me how they can go ahead and adopt from shelters.”


Second: Nitin Kumar

Nitin Kumar, an Indian national based in Dubai, has converted his passion for photography and writing into community journalism.

He said: “Community reports are an innovative platform as they give us a chance to see what is happening around us and in our communities and what initiative is being taken by people and the authorities to address them.”

Kumar works as a sales coordinator in Dubai and is interested in adventure sports, video logging, reading and animals. When he writes a report, he hopes to get a response from the authorities but says he hasn’t so far.

He said: “I got recognised by people around me and got their appreciation. But, I see slow action by the authorities as most of the issues that I and other readers have raised in the past are still existing. I hope they take the initiative and solve them, soon.”


Third: Sharjah Municipality

We have decided to honour the Sharjah Municipality for their support in resolving reader complaints from Gulf News and their prompt responses.

Mohammad Al Jasmi, head of media and moral guidance section at the Sharjah Municipality, told Gulf News: “Sharjah Municipality pays great attention to reader complaints because it considers the print media a major communication channel within the community, and Gulf News is undoubtedly one of the largest print media organisations in the region.

"The municipality has assigned a media team to monitor the local English and Arabic newspapers and other media channels, and it deals swiftly and seriously with all the readers’ suggestions and complaints. When our media team get a complaint or suggestion through one of the media channels, they refer it to the concerned department for immediate action. The team follows up to ensure the complaint is solved, and then communicate with the newspaper where the complaint was published to let the readers know what action has been taken.

“There are many channels through which readers can raise complaints with the municipality directly. To name a few, the hotline 993, Sharjah Municipality’s social media channels on Facebook, Twitter, Google plus, the Sharjah Municipality channel on blackberry, in addition to the smart and electronic services on the municipality’s website and ‘Baladyiaty’ application on iPhone and Android smart phones. There is even a complaint and suggestion box on all the municipality premises where customers can drop their complaints.”

- Profiles compiled by Rabab Khan/Community Interactivity Editor