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The team of 211 volunteers comprising university students, homemakers and employees were a task force in facilitating the organisational aspects of SIBF. Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: Apart from the authors and intellectuals who enriched the cultural agenda of the recently-concluded 39th Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), there was another category of individuals who also played a vital role — volunteers.

Spotted all over the SIBF venue, Expo Centre Sharjah, in their unique vests, the team of 211 volunteers comprising university students, homemakers and employees were a task force in facilitating the organisational aspects of SIBF, one of the world’s three top book fairs. With the word ‘Volunteer’ emblazoned on their vests, this group of women and men were found across the halls and hallways of SIBF 2020, held from November 4 to 14.

Some were tasked with promoting awareness about the preventive measures adopted by Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) to contain the spread of COVID-19, and ensure that all visitors and exhibitors were adhering to the precautionary guidelines issued by the UAE health authorities. They were at the reception offices standing to handle visitor registrations, and helped them find specific publishers, or even a specific book among millions displayed at the fair. Others were helping children and the elderly.

Shifts and teams

The first batch of volunteers from the Sharjah Volunteer Centre, under the auspices of the Sharjah Social Services Department (SSSD), arrived as soon as the Expo Centre Sharjah opened its doors. The morning shift volunteers were divided into three teams that work from 9am to 3pm. The three teams on the evening shift worked from 3pm to 10pm.

Specific roles and duties

In each team in every shift, volunteers were assigned specific roles and duties. Members of the first team helped visitors to register. The role of the second team of volunteers was to raise their awareness on preventive measures and physical distancing, and to ensure that visitors had their face masks on and were always maintaining a safe distance from other guests. The third team, which received prior training, collaborated with the Sharjah Civil Defence Department to help in safety, security, and emergency situations.

‘Reliable and trustworthy’

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A volunteer guides a visitor at SIBF. Image Credit: Supplied

Badr Mohammad Saab, Head of Corporate Communication, SBA, said: “The ongoing challenges of the coronavirus pandemic have necessitated the need to double up efforts to provide a quality, enjoyable experience for our visitors and participants. Our team of volunteers were both reliable and trustworthy and by working in collaboration with their team members, they ably met the needs of visitors throughout the 11-day event.”

Zain Muhielddine, head of Wamda volunteer team, said: “Volunteers catered to visitors’ needs and received feedback to improve the services. They also helped with a wide range of administrative work including filling attendance records, that enabled them to acquire skill sets beneficial for their future. Along with the Wamda team, the event saw the participation of the Sanid volunteer team who managed the crowded areas, responded to medical emergencies and provided first aid.”

Muhielddine said 211 volunteers from diverse age groups were selected from the centre’s platform, which received more than 400 applications for voluntary services at SIBF this year. She added that volunteering was a way to give back to the community and gain work experience.