Never put away a good thought. Action it immediately because you never know it could well turn into a massive initiative.
And during the month of Ramadan – a time to give and share – there is no good deed that is small as these creative women will tell you.
Dutch expat Fikra Yel had a thought of sharing her fridge to workers in the community where she lived, providing food and water. This was four years ago. Today her thought has turned into a vision. Her initiative – Ramadan Sharing Fridges - is a registered entity under the umbrella of Red Crescent. And from one fridge, the tally now reads a staggering 202 refrigerators placed across various locations in Dubai.
How it began
In 2016, Fikra, moved her house from Meadows to Jumeirah Park. Before shifting homes, she donated her spare fridge to her friend, Sumayyah Sayed living in Meadows. Sumayyah on her part decided to start a Facebook group to gather volunteers to help her fill up the fridge and feed workers in the area. By the end of Ramadan 2016, the initiative had grown to 170 refrigerators.
Today the Facebook group, Ramadan Sharing Fridges has 30,000 members or volunteers. The refrigerators are all placed across Dubai and according to Fikra it has been a huge blessing to be able to run the Ramadan Sharing Fridges for the fourth consecutive year. It has become a real community initiative where the spirit of love and kindness is at the highest,” she told Gulf News.
French expat Anne Mulcahy could not agree more. Anne who is a volunteer and a ‘fridge manager’ of the campaign attributed the success of the initiative to the community and its volunteers. “A fact that the whole idea is based on a simple concept, is another reason why it is so popular.”
“If you have a spare fridge, open it for the community and offer free food and drinks to workers around you. Simple.”
Anne added the idea, however, goes beyond just sharing free food and water. “It is about building a community. You get to know your neighbour, you meet people working in your community, it is keeping in line with what the month of Ramadan is all about,” she said.
“For example I had never interacted with my gardener or other workers in the area until we kick-started the campaign,” said Anne, a Meadows resident.
What makes this community initiative a humbling experience for the volunteers is that there is a story behind every fridge placed in Dubai. “Everyone is working hard to keep the fridge full. Volunteers take turns and they ensure the fridge is filled up and ready for use 24 hours a day. There are people involved in just cleaning the fridge, serving the workers with a smile and stocking the refrigerators with food and water.”
Gulf News visits one of the busiest fridge points in Dubai where workers cue up for their goodies. The location is the Octane Car Service Centre in Al Quoz 1 where a fridge is placed.
Pakistani blue collar worker, Tariq Hussain said: “It is a very nice thought to serve food and water to us. I feel cared for and respected. Nobody tries to get to know us. Through this I have met so many lovely people and I have made new friends. I have been coming here for the last couple of years during Ramadan. I pick up food and water every day. For me personally, it is a great way to mingle with others,” he said.
Zimbabwean worker Edmund Chigawanyika also agreed. “People recognise us. I think this initiative goes beyond just food and drinks. I look forward to coming to this car centre to pick my food every day.”
Registration, logistics and how it works
The fridge is bought by volunteers and set up in their premise. The volunteer, also referred to as a fridge manager bears the cost of the electricity of running the refrigerator they set up. The fridge is operational 24 hours a day and open for workers to take food anytime. “This is our way of giving back to the community,” explained French expat Magda Scriabine, fridge manager.
There is no fixed capacity for the fridge, but a small one is not ideal as some areas see massive crowds lining up for food. Those looking to set up a fridge first need to look at the map which is regularly updated by the members to show the locales and points where the refrigerators are placed.
“The first thing you need to do is look at the map. People need to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. From there a team of volunteers will guide you in the process, register you and ask you to send you all the details. A copy of your Emirates ID will be required.”
Role of a fridge manager
The main role is the operation of the fridge is to ensure it is filled all the time. The manager is also responsible to keep the fridge clean. A volunteer needs to stay close to the refrigerator all the time and greet people who come to take the food. “A smile to a worker or a nice word goes a long way. After all the concept of the initiative is to spread love and care,” said Pam Shakil.
“I have set up my fridge in front of my husband’s garage in Al Quoz. We are busy all through the day as we have workers from the entire area and sometimes neighbouring areas coming to pick up their goody bags.”
Schools getting involved
A number of schools have joined the initiative this year. “Forty one schools have set up a fridge in their premises. There are other schools which cannot place a fridge are helping with supplying food and water. In one of the points, we saw a nursery bring their students and place food in the fridge. It was their way of teaching children to share which we thought was very heartening,” said Anne.