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Several of the volunteers packing and distributing the meal bags and toiletry kits are labourers themselves.
Several of the volunteers packing and distributing the meal bags and toiletry kits are labourers themselves.

Ramadan campaign puts a 'Smile on the Face' of 10,000 UAE labourers

Ramadan 2012: Ten thousand labourers will receive free meals and toiletries through a Ramadan programme run by the Community Development Authority (CDA).

DUBAI // Ten thousand labourers will receive free meals and toiletries through a Ramadan programme run by the Community Development Authority (CDA).

Several of the volunteers packing and distributing the bags are labourers themselves, said Palani Babu, manager of facility and society licensing at the CDA.

"They said there is a non-profit organisation that had provided them a lot of support," Mr Babu said. "They wanted to give back."

The Ramadan programme, called "Smile on the Face", is a collaboration between the CDA, a Dubai government agency, and Tamquest Events company.

The initiative has already served 5,500 workers at labour camps in Dubai. The programme will continue until the end of Ramadan.

Each worker receives water, an iftar meal and an assortment of toiletries, said Dr Omar Al Muthanna, chief executive officer of the CDA's social regulatory and licensing sector.

"One of the groups we've been paying special attention to is people in labour camps ... to show the people of Dubai that nobody is overlooked," said Dr Al Muthanna. "It doesn't matter what creed or background you come from, we are one community."

About 180 to 200 volunteers have participated so far, packing the bags during the week and distributing them on Friday evenings.

The CDA worked with private companies and non-profit groups to organise the programme.

The meal and gift bag expenses were covered by corporations and charitable individuals, with each pack costing about Dh50.

Half of the volunteers were recruited through a CDA database, while the rest heard through the media or word of mouth.

"[During] Ramadan the spirits are high, people want to give more," Dr Al Muthanna said. "When we put out a call for our volunteer programme, people came to us fasting, working outside in the heat, coming after their working hours in the middle of nowhere to help the labourers."

Several children also have volunteered. "They were as small as five to six years old," Mr Babu said.

"Smile on the face" is an extension of a campaign the CDA launched earlier this year called "Honour Labour", which is dedicated to labourers.

"There are still ongoing programmes for learning English, music classes, health awareness sessions, and a book donation drive," Dr Al Muthanna said.

The CDA works with volunteers to encourage social cohesion, he added. "We always try to look for opportunities where we can strengthen these messages, and what better time than Ramadan?"

People can register to volunteer by emailing volunteers@cda.gov.ae or messaging BlackBerry pin number 210E67B3.

vnereim@thenational.ae

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