x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Charitable impulse finds an outlet, just in the nick of time

Moving house from one emirate to the another is physically and emotionally draining and more time consuming than a trip to the local identity card office.

As far as the most stressful things in life go, moving house is up there. Of course talking to a human being on the telephone at a bank and getting a favourable result, ordering any kind of reasonably healthy lunch that doesn't come with some form of fried poultry and getting a consistently fast and uninterrupted internet line all feature prominently. But shifting from one emirate to the another is more annoying than all of those put together. It's physically and emotionally draining and more time consuming than a trip to the local identity card office.

You have to sell items you no longer need (if you read my column two weeks ago you'd have seen that I was flogging most of my furniture to the financially fragile), you have to hire removal folk, who bash your stuff around with as much care as a one-legged roller-skating polar bear in a porcelain shop with a middle ear infection, and then you have to sort out what you're taking and what you want to give away. There lay the rub.

I had tons of rubbish to recycle. Rummaging through my drawers, cupboards and bedside tables I found all sorts of weird and wonderful, but equally useless, trinkets my wife and I have hoarded over the three years we've been in the Emirates: a drawerful of lanyards and media badges amassed over the years following countless press conferences and more clothes than could be found in all of Dubai Mall's fashion stores, among other items.

A dinnerless 24 hours later I had sorted them all into keep and giveaway piles. Good work, or so you'd think. I'd blocked my only escape route out of this mess. A further 24 dinnerless hours later, close to designer desperation, I bagged up the lot and went on a mercy mission to hand our leftovers to those most in need. But this is where what should have been a simple plan went absolutely nowhere. My first port of call was online. A list of around 15 charitable organisations popped up, from aid for Africa to a Scottish not-for-profit group. I grabbed the phone and randomly called a selection. Every single one went from one irritating plinkety plonk 1980s-style hold musak to voicemail. Had I been unlucky, or had the recession been battered the charity sector as well?

I then asked a few friends for their help, but not one knew of a single charity shop or body set up to take in and distribute unwanted items to the needy. One person then alerted me to the fact that some malls have drop-off points. I searched high and low near my now former Dubai residence, but nothing materialised. Not a single drop-off. Not a single point. With less than a day left to dispose of three large sackfuls of socks, shirts and silver stilettos, time was ticking by and I was getting desperate to offload the untouched. Surely there had to be someone who had had the foresight to set up a permanent location for expats to pass on their Dubai Shopping Festival fashion faux pas?

Nothing. I knew there were charities out there, but time had defeated me. And in times like these, when people need cheap or even free clothing to cope with job losses and economic gloom, I felt awful. I'd reached the end of my journey, both in my mission to dispose of the undesired and in Dubai. I morosely reversed the Renault up to the bins in my apartment building's car park and poured the contents with great melancholy into the rotting metal carcass. Dejected, I trotted back up to my flat for one last time.

As I reached the door I'd realised that I'd asked my odd-job pal, Rasik, to dismantle my bed for me ahead of a buyer arriving later that evening. We spoke for a minute, and then he began to ask me about the remaining items in the flat. He pointed to a mini-fridge I'd forgotten all about, a year-old blender, and two plastic night tables in the bedroom. "Yes, they're available I suppose," I replied. His face lit up. This is a man who lives in the basement, is called up by DIY-averse people like me to do odd jobs and survives on the titbits we give him, because his salary is probably only Dh1,000 a month.

"God bless you", he said, beaming a smile towards me as the lift doors closed on my three-year adventure in Dubai. At last, a form of charity had been handed down to someone who needed it the most. I'd found it at the very moment I thought I'd failed. It was a fitting end to my stay here. If only I'd found it earlier. jbennett@thenational.ae