Martina Iannacone Velasco has collected thousands of caps in Dubai. Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/Gulf News

Dubai: Do you know that the plastic cap of the bottled water you buy to quench your thirst can save the life of an 11-year-old child who is suffering from a congenital heart disease as well as other underprivileged children in another part of the world?

The campaign ‘Caps for a new life’ that moved the whole of Spain to raise funds to cover underprivileged children’s medical expenses has reached the shores of Dubai.

A few homes and offices in Dubai have started collecting plastic bottle caps to be sent to the Seur Foundation in Spain. The caps will be used to help defray the medical expenses of 11-year-old Aitana Garcia, who was born with complex congenital heart disease including pulmonary artesia.

For every tonne of bottle caps, a recycling company will donate €300 to Garcia’s medical fund.

The ripple effect in Dubai was caused by Garcia’s schoolmate, Martina Iannacone Velasco, 8, who comes to the UAE every so often to collect the caps. Velasco’s family lives in Dubai.

“It’s difficult [to collect caps in Spain] because there we drink water from the tap,” she told Gulf News.

“There I can have like 20 caps in three weeks, more or less. But here in Dubai maybe 20 caps in one week or two days because they drink a lot [of bottled water],” she added.

According to Worldwatch Institute, a person in the UAE consumes 275 litres of water or 350 to 450 bottles of water every year. That’s a lot of bottle caps that may go a long way for children in Spain who badly need help.

The Velasco family jumped into the girl’s cause and the word spread.

In just three months, three Filipino employees of Emirates Driving Institute (EDI) gathered three big bags of bottle caps.

Speaking to Gulf News, the Filipino ladies said that they would also ask people to contribute to the cause as this is their own small way to help. They also set aside a box at the EDI where people can deposit their bottle caps.

“We took pity on the child because we were told that she couldn’t go for the operation due to financial constraints. So we encouraged even our colleagues to keep their bottle caps and not throw them away,” Maria Dizon, a driving instructor, said.

“It never occurred to us to doubt this call for help. And what are these anyway? Just bottle caps, they don’t have any worth. So it was no problem for us to collect them for as long as it can help save one child’s life,” Criselda David said.

“Every week, we’d wake up with bottle caps delivered right to our doorstep. Some of the children would go through discarded trash just to salvage one bottle cap,” Medelita Valenzuela, an EDI trainer, told Gulf News.

Gulf News witnessed the group’s spirit especially as they counted the caps.

For one hour, they painstakingly counted each and every cap collected. The result of three months’ hard work? 10,139 caps all in all.

But the effort did not end there. After sending the bags to Spain, they said they’d start collecting again.

“Although we do not know the kid who needs the caps, the person who convinced us to help her was very sincere. So we have our hands to help, even without anything in exchange, we are willing to help anytime, no second thoughts, no doubts,” Valenzuela said.

As of last count on June 22, the Seur Foundation has collected 1,017 tonnes of tops since October 2011 which is equivalent to €305,100.

Garcia was successfully operated on at the Boston Children’s Hospital in May thanks to more than 13 million people, 2,000 schools and people from all walks of life in Spain. She will need one more operation though and this is where help from Dubai will come in.

“I am helping her because she’s a girl, she still has to live and it’s nice to help so she can survive. After they help Aitana, they’ll help somebody else, and then somebody else, they’ll never stop,” the eight-year-old Velasco said.