Dubai: It’s 9.30pm. The taraweeh prayers at Abdul Raheem Mohammad Ketait Mosque in Al Quoz 3 has ended. But the courtyard outside is just beginning to come alive.
By 9.45pm the place is abuzz with activity as scores of youth volunteers in fluorescent green vests gear up for the mammoth task ahead — handing out suhour or pre-dawn meals to over a thousand low income workers in just a little under 30 minutes.
The volunteers, including several members of Dubai Police, listen attentively as their team leader gives last minute instructions. But many among them know the drill already as they have been assisting in packing and distributing the meals daily as part of the “Their Suhour on Us initiative” launched by Community Development Authority’s (CDA) Youth Council three years ago.
Spurred on by loud cheers and claps by the team leaders, the volunteers go about their jobs with clockwork precision.
As one team unloads hundreds of meal boxes, fruit crates and water bottles from vehicles parked outside the mosque, another team rushes the items inside the courtyard and neatly arranges them on plastic tables where a third team takes over to help in their distribution. “Yalla, Yalla (hurry up)” the team leaders commands gesticulating excitedly. The next few minutes pass in an unrealistic blur as the volunteers hasten their pace.
By 10pm, the milling crowd has thinned out and only a few remain in the queue to be served.
“Our annual initiative has become so popular that donors and volunteers wait for it more anxiously than the people who benefit from it,” said Ahmad Julfar, director general CDA who was also among the volunteers.
CDA is perhaps the only entity that provides suhour meals to workers.
“Volunteering for this initiative gives people the chance to feel for those who are in need and understand what it is like to be on the other side. I am glad I came here and did by bit to bring a smile on somebody’s face,” said Emirati Saeed Al Hajri who works for Etihad airline.
Another Emirati, Ahmad Baqer Al Ahli, who works for a local bank, said he felt obliged to serve the men who built his country. “This is the least we can do for them. It should be our national obligation to do as much as possible for these hardworking men who have left their families behind so that we can comfortably live with ours,” he said.
CDA said ‘Their Suhour on Us’ programme caters to 50,000 daily. A similar initiative is held throughout Ramadan in Al Ain and Umm Al Quwain. Every night over 1,300 meals are distributed by CDA. This includes a main course, fruit, water and dates.
On Tuesdays and Saturdays, a Dubai Health Authority (DHA) mobile unit is at hand to provide free health check-ups.
Bayara, Al Shalal, UAE food bank, Dewa, Al Rawabi, IACAD, RTA, Dubai Police are among many private entities and government organisations that are support the initiative.
Indian worker Arshad Alam, 31, who is observing his first Ramadan in Dubai, said he is overwhelmed by the generosity of the UAE’s Rulers. “Not only do I get free iftar, but also free suhour meals. The volunteers who hand me the suhour meal are courteous and always smile at me. It’s very touching,” he added.