It is universally acknowledged that through giving, our lives gain meaning, and we nurture solidarity, reciprocity and trust in our communities. Volunteering, in particular, allows us to make impactful contributions to society in the hope of finding sustainable solutions for those in need. As the global community faces new challenges, volunteerism will gain both importance and relevance.
The United Arab Emirates is arguably one of the best models of charitable giving around the world. Every year, the UAE improves the quality of countless lives through generous donations. In 2017 alone, the country donated AED 19.32 billion (USD 5.25 billion) to 147 countries, which represents 1.31 per cent of the country’s gross national income on foreign developmental aid.
His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, declared 2017 as the Year of Giving. During the same year, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minster of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai launched Volunteers.ae, the first and largest smart and nationwide volunteering platform. During the Year of Giving, the platform has seen the registration of 275,000 individuals who donated over 2.8 million volunteer hours across the country in support of worthwhile causes. To-date, more than 347,000 volunteers and 360 organizations are registered on the platform.
In 2018, a federal draft law was passed to boost the nation’s culture of volunteering. Under the law, volunteers must receive sufficient training, coverage for work expenses, protection against personal injury and property damage, and an avenue for complaints. Additionally, the new law advances the government’s on-going efforts to coordinate volunteer work.
The bill will have even greater salience in the lead-up to 2020, as Dubai expects more than 30,000 volunteers to participate in Expo 2020.
Volunteers build resilient communities
In its 2018 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report, the United Nations estimates that more than a billion people volunteer around the world, the equivalent of 109 million full-time workers. Their impact is momentous.
When people are connected, they stand a chance at overcoming the most pressing issues of our time. Moreover, it tightens the bond between people and boosts solidarity, resilience and global citizenship. That is why the theme of this year’s International Volunteer Day 2018 is ‘Volunteers build resilient communities’.
Strengthening resilience is not only about managing disasters. It is a key component of all emergency and development programming. Communities with sustainable educational systems are less susceptible to hazards and faster to recover. When volunteers give the underprivileged a helping hand whether it is through building a school or enhancing the schools’ infrastructure and classrooms, they are playing an integral role in building stable and resilient communities.
By instilling the volunteering spirit in the UAE community, we are developing culturally-aware and civically-engaged people who are positively benefiting the local and global communities. From this belief, Dubai Cares has a series of local and global volunteering initiatives aiming at encouraging the UAE community to donate their time, energy and skills to serve the community, support the educational cause and become global citizens.
Dubai Cares’ Volunteer Globally is a very popular week-long mission involving 15 UAE-based volunteers who travel to disadvantaged communities around the world to assist in the construction of a school for and with the local community. This volunteering initiative is a testament of how volunteerism brings together people from all walks of life in support of those in need.
Locally, Dubai Cares’ Volunteer Emirates rallies the UAE community throughout the year to donate their time in support of this noble cause. The initiative has different editions that include, refurbishing charity schools in the UAE, supporting centers for people of determination, delivering summer camps for orphans and children coming from low income families and providing school kits to students in need. We are now broadening our scope of work to cover volunteering initiatives beyond school and education centers. We have also realized the demand for skilled volunteers and we are working towards providing opportunities for UAE volunteers to offer their support within their skillset and expertise.
On International Volunteer Day, let us celebrate the efforts of all volunteers, and never forget to pay our good fortune forward. Volunteers are an extension of our team and we are grateful for their commitment. As a global philanthropic organization, we are committed to facilitating volunteerism locally and globally, and I urge all of you today to get more involved and give back to society by volunteering your time and efforts, and also encouraging your family and friends to do the same. Let us through supporting education, build resilient communities.