x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

There is a way to volunteer to meet each person's passion

There is an opportunity for people to volunteer, whatever their interests and passions may be.

My friend and I want to create a women's motorsport programme, affiliated with the proper authorities, where any woman who is interested in marshalling in national and international events, can learn how in a supportive environment. And more than this, we want to maximise the participation of Emirati youth in our society but we're not sure if the support is there and how to tap into it.

As well as providing volunteers for various events, Emirati women participating in motorsport events would be an encouraging sight for all UAE residents. They would see more compatriots helping their nation meet its aspirations.

Of course, these types of programmes are required beyond sport, whether their goal is to drive social change or business development. But that is also the point. There is an opportunity for people to volunteer, whatever their interests and passions may be.

Many events, programmes and developments, such as Ferrari World, Yas Marina Circuit and Dubai Cares, have been recognised in the international arena, but their goals are still incomplete. In order for them to reach their full potential, they require more Emirati support and participation.

Support for the professional football clubs in the UAE is perhaps the clearest example of where civic and national spirit can be improved. You may not know it when streets are crammed with cars honking their horns in celebration after a big win, but crowds at the stadiums are often too small to really be classified as crowds. A stadium with a 10,000-seat capacity routinely hosts as few as 1,000 spectators.

Even the UAE national team is having trouble attracting enough fans to the stands to support their efforts on the pitch. Is this because going to a football match is somehow more of an effort than a drive around town in a cool car or an evening spent with friends at a coffee shop?

What is ultimately at stake is more important than attendances at football matches. There are many charitable organisations in the UAE but not enough volunteers. There are certainly many charitable needs. Extra hands are desperately required to make the lives of the less privileged a little happier - and yet there is a serious shortage of those willing to come forward.

Even in my own attempts to encourage more people to volunteer for the UAE's national emergency response team, I have encountered obstacles. Changing attitudes towards personal involvement and investment in our society is a challenge that won't be solved right away. Young people often respond positively to our efforts, but fail to follow through when we need their time and efforts most. Some youths have an "I don't care attitude" and others will say: "I don't have time for this."

But for all the Emiratis who do volunteer and who do wake up every morning with the intention of achieving something for their country and for themselves, there is one more obligation: getting their peers involved in volunteering. What they do is the best advertisement for how the country benefits from their time and commitment.


Shaima al Sayed is an Emirati volunteer and motorsport enthusiast