Dubai: Four years ago, Katie Jones, a British citizen who lives in Dubai, took responsibility of a Facebook group — Dubai Expat Community (DEC).
Today, after re-branding, the community has grown to more than 94,200 members.
As the group's popularity has grown organically, Jones started four other sister groups – Dubai Expat Community Properties, Dubai Expat Community Jobs, Dubai Expat Community Trading Post and Dubai Expat Ladies.
This is how her vision to unite Dubai expatriates has come alive.
The idea of starting the Dubai Expat Community Facebook group has been to harness the power of our members’ collective knowledge to advise, counsel and provide useful tips
“The UAE in general has approximately 200 different nationalities all residing, working and striving for a better life for themselves and their families,” she said.
“The idea of starting the Dubai Expat Community Facebook group has been to harness the power of our members’ collective knowledge to advise, counsel and provide useful tips,” she said.
Do’s and Don’ts
“The idea is to guide and lay down the general ‘Dos and Don’ts’ to help our 94,000+ members successfully navigate the day-to-day tasks of living in Dubai and the UAE,” said Jones.
She added: “Personally, I also started operating the group because I derive tremendous personal satisfaction from seeing a diverse set of people come together for the common good.”
Jones – who has been a Dubai resident since four years - is an entrepreneur, running a family-owned skin care brand in Dubai.
She takes delight in the success of the group, which has become the go-to place of Facebook users looking for help and advise in Dubai.
Sense of community
“I grew up in a beautiful part of West Wales in a rural seaside village — a much quieter pace of life than living here in Dubai. I have a big extended family back home but my parents live out here in Dubai too.
“This was a major driving force behind my efforts in trying to make this community stronger, to give expats a sense of having a support system when many of them are in a new country away from family and friends which can be very daunting and there can be many questions arising as you navigate being a resident in a new country, particularly in the beginning.”
Jones attributes the success of the group to two main reasons: “The reasons are in the name of our group itself - ‘Expat’ and ‘Community’. A big portion of UAE population are expats – well over eight million people.
“Everyone can see and feel that the population is in a significant growth phase right now thanks to the country’s stability and ‘safe haven’ status.
“Every one needs advice, counsel and learning from the experience of others. I believe the group provides those on a day-to-day basis, plus we also have some seasoned members who have the benefit of lots of UAE experience to pass on to their fellow members…that’s the power of a true community,” explained Jones.
How the community helps
The group has helped members in different ways, from locating lost pets or belongings, to locating family members, or simply supporting someone in need.
“I am very pleased to say we’ve had several instances of our members assisting others who have struggled to get established. We regularly assist in helping people to locate lost pets, belongings and recently were even able to help a family located a missing relative through the group.
“We also regularly help with re-homing animals and we’ve given away some wonderful prizes thanks to the benevolence of numerous UAE corporates who are generous enough to support the group and its members.
“Our main achievement is fostering an inclusive, supportive safe space where people can ask for help, give and receive advice and even come for emotional support during times of need. We are working on extending this to physical events in the near future to bring people together in that way too.”
A member of the Dubai Expat Community, Pranav spoke to Gulf News on how he benefited from being a part of the Facebook group.
“Over the past month, the knowledgeable inputs and timely help that have been posted on Dubai Expat Community have exceeded my expectations. DEC’s great value constantly helps reach new levels of productivity in the daily life here.”
Seeing the popularity Jones has started sister groups from the main Dubai Expat Community. Dubai Expat Community Properties, Dubai Expat Community Jobs, Dubai Expat Community Trading Post and Dubai Expat Ladies. Dubai Expat Community Jobs for one is the most popular with over 18,900 members.