Dubai: It was 4pm on a weekday and Michael James Rojas was waiting for his friends who are also volunteers. They have been going around the city, moving from house to house, asking residents what they need and also actively disseminating information on coronavirus (COVID-19).
The task is both taxing and fulfilling they said. They too are afraid to get infected by the virus but they take pride and satisfaction in being volunteers who support the country’s first line defenders in the fight against the global pandemic.
“It’s the joy of being of service to the community no matter the risk,” Rojas explained in one sentence.
“There was a call to serve and we heeded the call,” added the 46-year old Filipino expat who has been a Dubai resident since 2006.
“We are helping our neighbors. We go around the community and ask the residents what they need and in turn we inform the authorities. People, particularly our kababayan (compatriots), find it easier to convey their needs because we talk the same language,” Rojas, who works as a senior occupational health and safety inspection officer, told Gulf News.
“We are embraced with warmth everytime we hand out a warm meal or simply ask them what they want. We find residents very supportive of the initiative because they really feel they are cared for,” he added.
Hessa bint Essa Buhumaid, Minister of Community Development, underscored the importance of volunteerism, which she said in these exceptional circumstances “is a national duty that we must respond to as part of our personal, national and moral responsibility, and as a way to give back to our beloved nation that provides us with so much.”
“Volunteers are capable of playing a role no less important than the pivotal role played by medical and health teams in the field during these times, under the umbrella of a proper support and follow-up system to achieve optimal results,” added Obaid Al Shamsi, director general of the National Emergency and Crisis and Disasters Management Authority.
Al Shamsi pointed out “there are dozens of volunteering opportunities in the field in medical, health and community specialities across the UAE.
“Everyone who has the ability and will to give back to the country with his skills and expertise, can select the right opportunity to do so and join the field teams who are working hard and remaining hopeful to beat coronavirus soon,” he added.
As loyal as UAE citizens
Ibrahim Robel Beltran, one of the team leaders of Filipino volunteers, said: “We are as loyal as the UAE citizens.”
“During this crucial time of global crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, now is the time for us to return the generosity of the UAE. As expats, we need to fight this unseen enemy side by side with the authorities, its people and the UAE government that welcomed, accepted, respected and took care of us,” Beltran told Gulf News.
“We need to return that goodness with the noble deed of volunteering to ensure the safety of everyone,” he added.
Beltran said there are 25 of them in the group, distributed in various clusters in Al Rafa, Mankhool, Al Fahidi and other areas in Bur Dubai. Other volunteer groups composed of various nationalities are also distributed across the city.
“What we do as volunteers is we assist authorities in reminding the people to follow the precautionary measures, such as wearing face mask and hand gloves; and to adhere to the social distancing protocol, and most importantly to stay at home,” Beltran shared.
The volunteers are also crucial in data gathering and contact tracing.
Beltran said: “We are also reminding the people not to be afraid in reporting those persons showing symptoms of COVID-19 infections.
“We tell them to be always vigilant in their surroundings, to cooperate and call the relevant authorities for any findings and observation. The UAE government is always here to help us,” he underlined.
The UAE needs you
All UAE nationals and residents are invited to participate in #UAE _Volunteers to support the first line defenders in curbing COVID-19. Registration is done online
at: www.volunteers.ae, or by calling 800 - VOLAE (80086523), or e-mailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.
UAE Volunteers is a campaign run by the Higher National Committee for Regulating Volunteering during Crisis to bring the entire nation together by mobilising volunteers in the fight against COVID-19. It was launched in collaboration with governmental and semi-governmental entities, as well as the private sector and public benefit associations.
All UAE nationals and residents over the age of 14 are able to participate, as well as organisations in the public and private sectors.
There are two types of volunteer work: Field Volunteering, a specialised volunteering opportunity for individuals with medical expertise and other specialisations that can assist authorities on frontlines in the field; and virtual volunteering or remote volunteering. Considering the risk involved with field initiatives, all individuals interested must check with specialised entities responsible for organising various activities.