Unity Run 2019
Runners set off for the 2019 Emirates NBD Unity Run at Dubai Silicon Oasis on Friday Image Credit: Antonin Kallouche, photographer

Dubai: Around 10,000 people participated in the fourth ‘Emirates NBD Unity Run’ in Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO) on Friday in support of people of determination.

The run supports two centres for children and young people of determination – Senses Residential and Day Care Centre and Al Noor Centre for Persons with Disabilities – as well as Emirates Red Crescent, a leading UAE-based NGO.

Year of Tolerance

This year, the event was also held to celebration of UAE’s Year of Tolerance (2019), with international cultural pavilions from embassies and consulates based in the UAE participating. Diplomats from a number of countries and dignitaries took part in a symbolic ‘Tolerance Tree’ planting ceremony after the run.

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The event featured a 3-km walk and a 10-km run on the roads – closed to traffic for the morning event – surrounding the headquarters of DSO.

Ruth Dickinson, event director for the run, who is also managing partner of FIIT Group Middle East, told Gulf News that people from all walks of life, from as far away as Abu Dhabi, took part.

Unity Run
Participants take part in a symbolic tree planting ceremony after the Emirates NBD Unity Run at Dubai Silicon Oasis on Friday Image Credit: Antonin Kallouche, photographer

‘Unity in diversity’

“I think the community’s really come behind what we’ve been talking about for a number of years, which is the importance of having an inclusive society… [The run] has always been about unity in diversity, tolerance and inclusion; and what better way to really celebrate than to turn [the run] this year as a full-fledged festival celebrating tolerance,” Dickinson said.

The festivities included sports tournaments and fitness displays by the UAE Paralympians and Special Olympics UAE. Dubai schools were invited to take part in a mass dance for tolerance, as well as an art exhibition depicting students’ thoughts on the meaning of tolerance and unity. The event’s Unity Village offered children’s activities, entertainment, food trucks, the ARTE Marketplace, and fitness sessions.

Addressing participants, Dr Juma Al Matrooshi, deputy CEO of DSCO, said the UAE’s tolerant society is evident from the 200-plus nationalities living in harmony in the country.

Unity Run
Image Credit: Antonin Kallouche, photographer

For a cause

Participants, who included people of determination, said they showed up early on Friday – their weekend – to “support the cause” and promote fitness and the values of inclusion and tolerance.

Kenyan expat David Chemweno, who has taken part in three out of four editions of the run, said: “The inclusion, the togetherness brings me out here every time. It’s for a good cause and you want to be part of that. It’s also good fun.”

Filipino participant Harold James Lopez, 35, joined in with students from Dubai Centre for Special Needs. Lopez, a teacher at the centre, said he wanted “to bring about awareness and show support for the students. It’s good to see a lot of families, corporates, supporting also. Events like this make people of determination feel like joining in, it makes them feel appreciated”.

Unity Run
Families were encouraged to bring their children and prams for the Emirates NBD at Dubai Silicon Oasis on Friday Image Credit: Antonin Kallouche, photographer

Indian expat Venkatesh Gandhiraj, 42, who works in the oil industry, said he came along with a friend who had told him about the run. “It’s for a good cause and there’s a great sense of enjoyment and fitness also here,” he added.

The run is held under the patronage of Shaikh Mansour Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Higher Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (people of determination), and under the umbrella of Hamdan Bin Mohammad Community Sports Initiative.

The Emirates NBD Unity Run is supported by Dubai Sports Council. It is open to children and adults of all abilities and ages. Gulf News was one of the sponsors.

Unity Run
Friday's Emirates NBD Unity Run at Dubai Silicon Oasis was in support of People of Determination Image Credit: Antonin Kallouche, photographer