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Indian expat Ruchi Mehra (left), a member of the group, has been gifting workers in her Bur Dubai building for the past 12 years Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The community spirit is going in overdrive ahead of the festive season as residents in the UAE share gifts and lend a helping hand to neighbours and strangers alike, thanks to the UAE Pay It Forward social initiative.

As Christmas and New Year approaches, the group is busy arranging gifts to bring cheer to people.

UAE Pay It Forward, started by Indian expat Kavita Faiz on Facebook in 2016, has now grown to 22,000 members on Facebook. It’s serves as a platform for people to come together and help one another. It was launched by Faiz and supported by Mehsoon Ladak. Diana D’Souza joined the initiative in 2020 and together, they lead the group with five administrators; Kaycee Adornado Sepida, Gazal Syed, Kiran Saeed, Christmar Adhil and Sufana Hassan.

(clockwise from top left) Carolina, Kiran, Kaycee, Mehsoon; members of UAE Pay It Forward
(clockwise from top left) Carolina, Kiran, Kaycee, Mehsoo Image Credit: Supplied

‘Endless possibilities’

Ladak said there are different ways residents can pitch in.

“You can give away something you don’t need or use. One can also recycle or reduce pre-loved items such as books clothes, etc. This way you can donate to a cause you care about, volunteer your time or skills for a community project, help a friend or a neighbour with a task or a problem, compliment someone or make them smile, share your knowledge or expertise with someone who needs it, write a thank you note or anything else that comes to your mind. The possibilities are endless,” she explained.

Some popular initiatives of the Pay it Forward have been Secret Santa, Ramadan Fairy, Birthday Bash, Box of Wisdom, Wheelchair Support, free online seminars, online games, Back to School initiative, school books and uniform donation drive, Grocery and Baby essentials giveaways and Stroller Support.

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The seasons of festivities interspersed through the year also spur seasons of gifting Image Credit: Supplied

‘Simple yet profound’

“The concept is simple, but the impact is profound. We do something nice for someone, and then ask them to pay it forward by doing something nice for someone else. This way, we are creating a chain of goodness and positivity that can reach far and wide. A small act of kindness can make a big difference in someone’s life,” said Ladak.

Filipina expat Christmar Adhil said: “It’s been three years since I have been a part of this amazing group. I started as a member, then became the kindness captain, and now I am part of the admin team. The concept of reuse and recycle has brought a great impact and change in me and with my family. As a stay-at-home mom, being part of this helped me support other moms who are in need.”

She added: “During my tough times recently, when I gave birth to twins, the team supported me and my family immensely, making me feel like I am part of a bigger family. Taking some time from my daily routine at home to help those in need has brought me great joy, and some instances have touched our hearts.

“The more you give to others, the more you receive in return, even through their blessings. I feel that my family was blessed on many occasions, and we were able to overcome some difficult times. The power we have when we work as a group is very strong, and with each one of us in the group working towards the same vision helps expand even more and I wish all the best for this group and we will continue to do the best we can.”

Canadian expat Carolina El Hayek said: “UAE Pay It Forward has helped me to give away many items in my house to deserving homes. By doing so, we have taught our children that there are many things in our homes which may no longer be of use to us but we can give it to others for the purpose of reusing and creating a sustainable environment.”

Pakistani expat Kiran Saeed said: “I found this group on Facebook one day. It was in 2020 when COVID-19 was at its peak. It was very timely for I met so many ladies with such big hearts. I am fortunate to be helping many mothers who in times of their need.”

Gifting for a cause

Indian expat Ruchi Mehra has been gifting clothes and groceries to blue-collar workers in her Bur Dubai building for the past 12 years. She gives handouts every month to security and cleaners of the building. This season she aims to reach out to more people.

She said: “Twelve years ago, a conversation with a building cleaner left a very strong impression me. I realised the hardships they endure on a day-to-day basis. I saw their struggles to meet ends since they had a responsibility to give back home. So I wanted to do my bit and living miles away from their families and working hard every day, I saw their struggles to meet ends.”

Every month Mehra prepares a care package for 25 workers. The package includes daily necessities such as toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, body lotion, razors, towels, and more.

“The gifts are also thought-through and prepared based on the season and festival. During the summer, I gift T-shirts, cool healthy drinks, such as laban and flavoured milk. In the winter, I give them sweaters, blankets, and comforters. For Eid and Diwali the gift bag is packed with sweets and festive related giveaways.”