It all began eight years ago, when a couple of workers went to drop off a sick labourer at his accommodation located at the Sharjah industrial area.

An hour later they left the accommodation with just one thing on their mind - to take some time out from their busy schedule and give companionship to labourers at various accommodations.

By word of mouth, the idea was floated around and soon many like-minded community members joined in their initiative. Today their numbers have multiplied to about 150, of which 30 are full-time members.

Snehatazvara or Valley of Love (VOL) operates from a small room in Al Ghusais. Established with the aim of lending a helping hand to those in need irrespective of caste, creed, colour or sex, its members are everywhere and can be reached anytime.

C.P. Mathew, a full-time member, gave up his family business to look into the increasing number of cases being brought to their attention.

Soon the members started making weekly visits to the hospitalised, providing shelter to destitutes, rescuing women forced into prostitution, visiting prison inmates every week, tracking down family members of unclaimed bodies or raising funds.

At times they are also given the responsibility of conducting cremation and burial by family members who cannot afford to do so.

"When my father died I had no clue of all the formalities involved and of all the various paperwork .... There were not many to help me. After that it became quite a routine for a person in the same situation to just call me up and make inquires ... [about] burial or cremation [formalities] in the UAE."

VOL's popularity spread after some members appeared on a chat show on a Malayalam television channel. Cases started flooding in and even hospital staff started getting in touch with them whenever they came across people hospitalised with no one to take care of them.

"The authorities here have shown quite a lot of trust in our work. ... For example all the medical bills were waived by the Rashid Hospital and the Dubai government hospital in case of Haseena, an Indian woman who had undergone two brain surgeries and needed repatriation," said Mathew.

"The staff of Kuwaiti hospital in Sharjah have been very caring towards destitutes who cannot afford medical assistance. Proof of their humanitarian gesture is Regina, a Sri Lankan who was paralysed and was looked after by the hospital for over a year now," he added.

But what really brought them closer to the community was the 2003 amnesty that was launched by the UAE government.

The sheer amount of illegal immigrants who came forward to get an emergency certificate to exit the country led VOL to keep in close contact with the Indian consulate in Dubai.

The Indian Community Welfare Committee often pitches in and has been making regular financial contributions to cases brought forward by VOL.

"We also get enormous help from Dubai immigration authorities and Dubai Police with whom we are in regular touch. Both these authorities have brought to our attention a number of cases where an inmate needs to sort out his papers," said Mathew.

The media also came to their rescue by facilitating a repatriation case or in raising funds for the needy.

He said the media helped highlight the plight of a poor patient in need of an urgent kidney transplant, and help came pouring in from across the UAE.

"The best thing about people in the UAE is they are always ready to help others. There have been times when we had some people from ... other embassies getting in touch with us and wanting help with a needy case that was highlighted by the media."

The organisation is affiliated to the Department of Non-Resident Keralite Affairs and will soon be registered in the UAE.

Joseph Bobby, a VOL volunteer, said: "There have been plenty of cases when we receive letters from a father seeking help in getting his son or daughter back home. ... Being able to put a smile back on the wrinkled face ... is our biggest satisfaction, the rest is all secondary."