Abu Dhabi // Volunteers of all nationalities are being given the opportunity to work at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix next month. Emirati volunteers will remain the face of the event, but the popularity of the race has encouraged the Takatof volunteering initiative to broaden its recruitment drive. "It was the demand. Everybody wanted to volunteer and be a part of this exciting event," the Takatof director Maytha al Habsi said.
"Our doors are being knocked on, and it's difficult to say no to people because we do live in such a diverse community with so many cultures. So, we opened our doors this time to everyone." Takatof's recruitment campaign targeting universities began on Monday, aiming to draw more than 1,700 helpers. The 2009 event attracted 1,118 volunteers, all of whom were Emirati, against a target of 1,000. About 1,400 people had signed up but many were turned away due to a lack of available positions.
"Our target this year, 1,700, is really high, and I'm very optimistic we'll be able to meet that and maybe exceed it easily," she said. "That's my instinct." As with last year, this year's greeters, chauffeurs, grandstand supervisors, location guides and marshals for buses will all be Emiratis "to welcome the world to the Emirates with Emirati faces", Ms al Habsi said. "It was 100 per cent Emirati last year, which I think was a great opportunity for the Emiratis to show the hospitality we have, the welcoming spirit that Emiratis are known for."
This year's event, on November 11-14, will involve volunteers of other nationalities in a number of roles. "This time for non-Emiratis, there are some interesting opportunities that we can extend to them in the media centre, or with crowd management," Ms al Habsi said. Volunteers working under the Sanid programme - in partnership with the National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority - will be trained in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation in case of emergency.
"If non-Emiratis are interested, they can help with that," Mr al Habsi said. "They'll just be required to get the training necessary to be part of this team." Since it was founded in 2007, more than 15,000 Takatof volunteers have logged more than 236,000 hours of work in the UAE and abroad. Khamis al Mehairbi, 31, was among a group of Emirati volunteers who returned recently from Pakistan after working for flood relief programmes.
Mr al Mehairbi, a civil engineer, managed more than 60 volunteers as a supervisor for Grandstand 4 at Yas Marina Circuit during last year's event. "Inshallah, I'll be back this year," said Mr Mehairbi, who has already signed up for this year's race. "It was stressful, but in an enjoyable way," he said. "We were working sometimes from 6.30 in the morning until 9 in the evening, until all the guests left. The responsibility of the volunteers will be much bigger this year."
He said he has encouraged co-workers and friends to pitch in. One of Mr al Mehairbi's brothers worked last year greeting fans flying in from abroad. "This country has a lot," Mr al Mehairbi said. "There are a lot of things in this country that you cannot find in other countries, so we need to at least pay back a little of what this country has given us." Recruitment campaigns will continue this week at premises including the Higher Colleges of Technology, Zayed University, the New York University Abu Dhabi campus, the Zayed Private Academy, the Sorbonne, the Petroleum Institute and UAE University.
Those interested can also sign up at www.takatof.ae. firstname.lastname@example.org