Faisal, seen at his store in Ajman, wants as many people as possible to get involved in the initiative. Image Credit: Stefan Lindeque/ANM

Firoz, a 35-year-old Bangladeshi driver who works for a construction company in Ajman, is happy. His wife and three-year-old daughter will soon be joining him in the UAE and he is busy setting up home.

"I didn't have too many things in my house as I was living alone," he says. "But, now, with my wife and daughter coming, I want to provide them with as many comforts as I can afford."

Due to his modest salary Firoz wasn't sure he could afford to "buy a lot of comforts'' until a friend told him about Take My Junk UAE that sells - and often gives away - household furniture and appliances to low-income people.

"I bought a sofa, bed, cupboards, a fridge, washing machine and microwave, all used, for Dh1,800! I would never have been able to afford any of this stuff. I can't wait to see the expression on my wife's face when she sees all this," he says excitedly.

Firoz is not alone. Saif, who works for a company in Ajman as a glass and aluminium fitter, also has a smile on his face. He managed to send some extra money for his folks in Bangladesh last month. He had been saving the money to buy a bed and mattress for himself but was pleasantly surprised when he was given them, as well as a chair and some bedsheets, courtesy of Take My Junk. "The Take My Junk people came to our accommodation and distributed all these things to us for free. I was very happy because I could send home the money I had saved to buy the stuff," he says. 

One man's junk is another man's treasure

Faisal Khan, a Canadian of Indian origin, is also all smiles - happy that he is able to make a difference in the lives of people. A social entrepreneur, he founded Take My Junk UAE, an organisation that collects junk from residents, hospitals, malls, schools, universities, offices and companies in the UAE and sells it at highly reduced prices to the needy.

"They say one man's junk is another man's treasure. We buy people's junk at low prices and then sell it at reduced prices to those who cannot afford to buy new stuff.

"Fortunately, many people who sell their used stuff realise that it is going for a good cause and are willing to give it away at really low prices,'' he says.

He also often distributes household goods, foodstuff and clothes to workers free of cost.

Faisal is happy he is doing his bit to protect the environment. "A lot of discarded junk would go to a landfill but we are taking it and helping redistribute it to the needy," he says.

"A person with a modest salary and who couldn't dream of owning a reasonably good sofa, TV, bed or a DVD player, gets to own one at a price he can afford," Faisal says.

Take My Junk UAE collects clothes, furniture, kitchenware, toys, home appliances, exercise equipment, computers and laptops, mobile phones, bicycles, books, unopened canned food, even wheelchairs.

Alam, a resident of Ajman, found a pair of crutches at the store that he bought for an elderly relative in India. "I got them for a throwaway price for my uncle who has a problem with his leg,'' he says. "I am sure he will be pleased as it means he can move about without having to rely on others.''

Faisal says, "After covering our overhead expenses, we use the proceeds from the sales to provide meals, medical care, and basic necessities to workers or people in need.

"We donate a share of our revenue to Ajman Medical Clinic and have a Medical Fund that caters to many workers who may need medical attention,'' he says. "Whatever we can't sell, we distribute to the needy for free. Recently, we acquired 200 cupboards from Wafi's staff accommodation, which we distributed to some workers living in Ajman. We also send used clothing that we collect to the needy people in developing countries.

"It's a win-win situation all around. My initiative prevents junk from going into landfills and causing pollution and saves natural resources by preventing the production of new items.

"Since Take My Junk UAE has begun operations, thousands of items have been re-used and kept out of the country's landfills." 

Back to basics

It all started when the 37-year-old Dubai-born father of six children, who was a partner in a real estate company in Canada, decided to return to the UAE in 2006 after witnessing the property boom in the country.

"I lived in Dubai until the age of six. Then my father decided to move to Canada. However, my brother Asif came back to the UAE in 2001 and got involved in the real estate business in Dubai. Then, seeing how well the market was doing here, I also decided to return and made Dubai my home in 2006.''

However, after a short stint in real estate he decided to get into a business where he could also help low-income people.

Faisal, who has a Business Management degree from Seneca College in Canada, was inspired by the global trend of reducing, reusing and recycling and he started BuFaisal, a used furniture trading company.

"Even though I live in Ajman and the warehouse where we store all the stuff is there, we collect junk from people all over the UAE,'' he says.

Take My Junk UAE's popularity has grown and Faisal now owns eight trucks and employs 30 men.

"We have set ourselves a target of donating Dh75,000 in 2012 to the Ajman Medical Clinic and are encouraging our corporate customers to do the same," Faisal says.

But Faisal does not want it to be just his journey. He wants as many people and organisations in the UAE as possible to get involved in this initiative so he has devised various ways to engage the community.

"Volunteers can help us sort items in our warehouse in Ajman for distribution and for sale," he says.

People can also organise a Junk Day at their child's school, their office, or even their building. "All they need to do is to ensure that everyone brings his or her junk on the same day and I can arrange for my trucks to pick up the stuff,'' Faisal adds.

"We often distribute food items to workers in their accommodation and if volunteers can collect non-perishable food, beverages and toiletries from friends, neighbours and colleagues we can help distribute them to the needy,'' he says.

"Even schools can get involved and turn this into a class activity in order to teach their students how to care for the needy."

Now, that would surely be a good lesson for children to learn.