Volunteers COP28
COP28 volunteers (clockwise, from top left): Rayees R.M., Mira Saif Alsalami, Alpesh Shiv Shankar Upadhyay, and Rippendeep Kaur. Image Credit: Gulf News | Ahmed Ramzan

Dubai: Love for the nation and a need to give back to the society has pushed these UAE residents to volunteer at the COP28.

Students, administrative professionals, engineers, realtors and people of other walks of life came together with one mission - to help, guide and facilitate in the logistics for a smooth and seamless execution of the COP28 being held at Expo City Dubai.

These volunteers gave up their day duties – whether as a student or a working professional – just to volunteer their services for a larger cause.

As Mira Saif Alsamai, an Emirati, said: “I will not have it any other way. The pleasure from serving your nation goes beyond anything else.”

It is the same for Alpesh Shiv Shankar Upadhyay, an Indian expat who has lived here since 2005. “My life was made here. Volunteering at COP28 is the least I can do to give back to the UAE and its people.”

Farida Abdulla Saif

Farida Abdallah Seif,
COP28 volunteer Farida Abdulla Saif guides a visitor to the venue in Dubai.

For Farida Abdulla Saif, a Kenyan expat, the cause of climate change also beckoned her to volunteer. “I met so many climate advocates here and I am converted. I will be more mindful of the environment when I purchase or discard an item.”

Raghad Elsadig Eltahir Ahmed

Sudanese expat Raghad Elsadig Eltahir Ahmed, is a pharmacist and a senior scientist for a top fashion brand in the world. Ahmed decided to volunteer her services at COP28 owing to the magnanimity of the event with respect to climate change.

COP28 volunteer Raghad Elsadig Eltahir Ahmed
COP28 volunteer Raghad Elsadig Eltahir Ahmed Image Credit: Gulf News | Virendra Saklani

“Sustainability is inbred and when an oppourtunity came to volunteer at COP28 – I jumped to the occasion.”

“It was important for me to understand how multinational companies think sustainable and volunteering was one of the greatest way of learning this. Being amidst great thinking mind, and being able to help them in their journety at COP28 was important to me.”

She added: “Personally speaking I love to volunteer my services. It is my way of giving back something to the society. Being a volunteer at COP28 also opened my mind to different things.”

She said she was well prepared for her role as a volunteer. “We had a very detailed training that taught me a lot of about sustainability. They prepared us very well to meet visitors and delegates,” said Ahmed who was part of the welcome group of volunteers.

“I welcomed and interacted with scientists and key decision makers. It was a big take-a-way.”

Mira Saif Alsalami

Mira Saif Alsalami is another inspiring volunteer who spared her time from being a university student in Abu Dhabi.

Mira Saif Alsalami
Image Credit: Gulf News

Alsalami, who is doing her major in Records Management and Archival Science at Sorbonne University in Abu Dhabi, is enjoying her experience as a COP28 volunteer. Daily she drives to Dubai from Abu Dhabi for her shift at COP28 where she gives her time as a volunteer. “It is a historic event and to be a part of it is an absolute pleasure. I will not have it any other way.”

Alsalami can be seen helping and guiding visitors at key junction areas. Her job is to assist delegates and visitors with any help they may need in terms of conference timings, direction around the Expo City Dubai which is hosting COP28.

“What I love about the COP28 is the way it has been so well organised. For example, as volunteers we underwent a special training prior to the start of the climate conference. Here, we were taught on how to be kind and respectful to all delegates and visitors. We were told about the conference directions around the Expo City Dubai. We had to be the go-to people for visitors and delegates,” said Alsalami who worked in the afternoon shift from 2.30 pm until 10 pm.

“I did not mind the drive up and down. It is the least I can do for my nation that has given so much to Emiratis and expats.”

Alpesh Shiv Shankar Upadhyay

Indian expat Alpesh Shiv Shankar Upadhyay feels equally indebted to the UAE. “I started working here in the UAE in 2005. My life was made here. I was able to take care of my parents, my family, my children’s education all thanks to my job here in the UAE. When an opportunity came up to volunteer services at the COP28 I jumped for the idea. It is a small way of doing something for my country,” said the engineer who works for a private company.

Upadhyay who hails from Gujarat in India said working as volunteer at the beautiful Expo City Dubai has also made him so calm. “I find a lot of peace helping people and being in the beautiful location of Expo City Dubai.”

“One of my biggest take-a-ways from this has been a fact that we all worked as a team. The people I bonded with is forever.”

Rippendeep Kaur

Rippendeep Kaur, 38, working as a realtor in Dubai said her previous volunteering efforts made her sign up for her COP28 role as well. “I live in the UAE since 2008. I wanted to give back to the nation. It has made me independent and create a niche for myself. How could I not be part of such a proud moment of the nation?,” said Kaur who is a civil engineer by profession.

Image Credit: Gulf News

“I worked 15 years as a construction professional before becoming a realtor. That happened only because of the great opportunities that the UAE has to offer.”

Kaur said she was put up at the Sustainability district where she guided visitors and delegates. “I met so many interesting people,” said Kaur who is part of a volunteering group.

Farida Abdulla Saif

Kenyan expat Farida Abdulla Saif said she will take back several memories from her time as a volunteer for COP28. “I met delegates, climate activists who have changed my way of thinking. I will now rethink what I buy and discard. I will use less plastic and think about saving the planet. Beside I am going to say no to fast fashion. Instead I will buy something that can be recycled. I am definitely reusing my clothes.”

Rayees R.M.

Image Credit: Gulf News

Rayees R.M. said volunteering is something he finds value in. “Helping people is my thing. COP28 was a very unique experience for me as I met important people from all over the world who came with a common goal of sustainability. Volunteering work has changed my larger goal of mindful living. And for this I will be ever grateful.”