Dubai: A well-known Indian social worker, who has helped thousands of needy expats in the UAE, is leaving the UAE for good after 35 years.
C.P. Mathew, 56, co-founder of the erstwhile support group Valley of Love, told Gulf News, “Circumstances have prompted me to take this step as I have no income and can no longer afford to stay in the country.”
A full-time volunteer, who had little time for a job, Mathew never shied away from saying he lived off his wife Jiji Mathew who works as an office assistant at a “very supportive” Sharjah-based company. For public departments and the needy alike, he would often be the first port of call for help.
Mathew, who hails from Adoor in Kerala, said he came to the UAE along with his two brothers to join his parents when he was 21. “My father P.M. Pappen was a heavy duty vehicle driver and mother a baby sitter. When my father lost his job, my brothers and I set up a trading company in oil field supplies. Things went well for some years but dad passed away in 1997.”
“At the time, we found it very difficult to complete the death formalities and take his body home. That’s when we realised the need for a mechanism to help others in similar situations,” said Mathew.
Carrying on a legacy
He said his father who would silently help people in need had shown them the way. “Many people started knocking our doors when dad was no more, so we felt we should carry on his legacy in whatever way we could.”
So from helping families cope with death formalities and repatriation to visiting patients in hospitals, prisoners in jail and workers at labour camps, Mathew, who founded Valley of Love along with eight others, began to reach out to whoever needed them. “We built an informal network of people who were ready to help in whatever way they could at hospitals and other places and soon, we began to get more and more references.”
He said following the success of two medical camps that Mathew and his friends held, the Indian Consulate in Dubai also began to refer them for help.
Mathew said, “The years 2003 and 2007 were a turning point for us as we extended our voluntary services in a big way during the Amnesty period. This was the time when we got a lot of recognition for our work. Many people joined us to pitch in and help out with the exit of illegals.”
Grateful to the leaders
He said he was returning home with a heart full of gratitude and satisfaction as the leadership in the country had come forward to help so many people whose cases Valley of Love had highlighted over the years. “I am very thankful to the leaders and the community in the UAE for their wholehearted support to those in need.”
He said the time has come for him to go back home where he plans to carry on his voluntary work. “My mother is aged and needs me,” said Mathew, whose only son is doing his undergraduation in India.
Ask him about the highlights of his volunteering career in the UAE and the humble Mathew just shrugs it off. But those who have worked with him and have received his help know just how much his timely intervention has made a difference.
Community pays rich tributes
Dubai-based green entrepreneur Elizabeth Kuruvilla is one of many community members who have paid rich tributes to Mathew.
“Mathew is the sole reason I got led into this wonderful world of volunteering. From setting up Valley of Love to selflessly helping out thousands of unfortunate expats in the UAE, he is a role model. If only we would each of us be aware, like him, of our blessings and generously share them with anybody who needs help. Wishing him only the best as he moves on – I am confident the power above will always be with him, guarding and guiding him through the rest of his journey back home,” she said.
There are others who echo her words.
Prameela Nadkarni, former owner of Insportz Club, Dubai, said: “It has been an amazing journey with him, and I am grateful for all his encouragement, motivation and support whenever we approached him for any assistance that we needed. It is because of him, I decided to pay back to society. I wish him good luck and surely he will continue his good work wherever he is.”
Help during job hunt
Another Dubai resident Thomas Mathew recalls how Mathew helped him during his first job hunt.
“I came to the UAE in 2003, and Mathew took me around in his car for job interviews. Once I was settled, he called me to help some others who were jobless. This was his way of telling me to pay back- by helping others in need. All these years, he has been my guide and mentor for cases involving people stuck with loans and blood donation drives. May God bless him for all that he does for humanity.”
Garth Mitchell, an English editor with a government department, said, “I am very sad that Mathew will be leaving the UAE. If an award for the kindest humanitarian were given, he would be one of the most deserving. Ironically, he would also be quite liable not to accept the award and ask the event organisers to support the needy. In all the years I have known him, he never distinguished between nationalities, gender, rich or poor. If someone called and needed help, he tried his best to help. I am consoled by the fact that he will continue his selfless mission in India.”
A safety supervisor with a co0nstruction company in Fujairah, Philip T. Mathew said Mathew is a man of the people rather than a man of his own needs.”His undivided dedication to his community and projects has helped thousands over the years to lead a better and safer life. I have witnessed him crying if he didn’t have the means to help someone in need.”
“UAE expatriates are going to miss a great philanthropist in Mathew, who served his entire life in the country for the upliftment of the under-privileged. He spent his youthful years running a good race not to earn money but to bring good health and well-being for those who have been here to build a better life for their loved ones. I am sure he has a permanent place in the hearts of many expatriates and their families who were successfully repatriated from prison, labour camps and hospitals,” said Antony Benzi, a team leader at a private company in Dubai.
Touching lives in hospitals
Mathew’s services to patients in need have a great recall too.
“I met Mathew for the first time in Rashid Hospital when we went to visit someone who had a serious accident. I realised what a humanitarian he was, and after that, our company sponsored several events to support those who needed help,” said Manoj Nair, a business development manager at a company.
According to nurse Swapna Babu, “Mathew is an amazing man of kindness and love for humanity. His love is not only confined to humanity but extends to nature also.”
Nurse Jessy Thomas said, “It takes a community to uplift the needy. But every community needs a role model to make the first move in making a difference to society. One such human that has touched the hearts of people is Mathew. In my 31 years of working at a public hospital, I have personally witnessed Mathew relentlessly pursue multiple cases of patient support. One such instance that is etched in memory is that of him procuring cancer medicines for leukaemia patients who didn’t have the funds to get it on their own, combined with his efforts for repatriation of discharged patients.”