An outgoing personality is just one of the traits that landed more than 500 Emirati volunteers a place on the hospitality team for this weekend's events. Marie-Louise Olson looks at the Takatof programme that assembled the throng of workers who will greet and assist visitors.
It did not take long to find more than 500 volunteers willing to step forward and be the "Emirati face of the race" as they greet visitors at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend.
The recruitment target was reached so quickly that registration was closed several days before the planned deadline, said Maytha Al Habsi, the director of volunteer organisation Takatof, which co-ordinates the effort.
According to Al Habsi, the main role of the volunteers is to provide a strong Emirati welcome to race fans.
"The volunteers at this event are exploring their own nationality by having this big event organised in their own country, and they are aware that they have the responsibility of representing their home and culture," she said.
Takatof was seeking UAE citizens with good communication skills, a strong command of the English language, an outgoing personality and a strong sense of commitment to the job.
The positions were filled quickly by people such as Maryam Baniyas, who returns this year as a team captain at the Yas Marina grandstand.
"I like to communicate with other nationalities, so this is my chance to meet people from all over the world," she said. "Last year was wonderful; I got to improve my skills and build a network of friendships."
To prepare for the weekend, volunteers were trained in customer service and hospitality, and were also briefed on the basics of security.
They will be positioned at the grandstand entrance areas and the volunteer welcome centre, as well as the media centre. The helpers at the entrances will welcome guests and provide them with maps and directions and other useful information.
The volunteers at the welcome centre were required to take the 60-hour "Sanid" training programme, where they learned first aid and CPR, terrorism awareness, crisis management training and disaster simulation.
"We will also have 20 Emirati Sanid volunteers serving as evacuation marshals in the circuit," said Doha Al Hamad, the senior communications co-ordinator at the Emirates Foundation.
Volunteer groups consist of an area supervisor and two team captains, who are each in charge of around 30 volunteers.
Shahab Al Shahi is also returning as a volunteer, this year as a team captain, and is keen to once again be close to the racing action.
"I was a racer in the past, before the Yas Marina Circuit was built," he said. "I'm crazy about speed; I spent around Dhs700,000 on a Skyline GT3, which I built all by myself."
He is looking forward to being a leader this year. "I will have more responsibilities as a team captain, so I must be friendly and be like a brother," he said.
Takatof, established by the Emirates Foundation in 2007, strives to create a culture of volunteering by giving young people a chance to be involved in humanitarian, social and community issues.
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