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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Dubai residents help needy through ‘Sharing Fridge’ campaign

One woman’s kind gesture of meals for the hungry has spread and now Sharing Fridge is a magnet for 5,000 supporters.
Sumayyah Sayed is the woman behind the Sharing Fridge community campaign to put food in the bellies of those who need it most. The spirit of her gesture is infectious as neighbours and campaign followers across Dubai are making their contributions. Anna Nielsen for The National
Sumayyah Sayed is the woman behind the Sharing Fridge community campaign to put food in the bellies of those who need it most. The spirit of her gesture is infectious as neighbours and campaign followers across Dubai are making their contributions. Anna Nielsen for The National

DUBAI // A group of residents is making food available to the needy through the Sharing Fridge initiative started by an Australian woman.

The campaign, launched last week by Sumayyah Sayed, a 29-year-old Australian mother of two, has now spread, with 20 sharing fridges set up across the city of Dubai. More than 5,000 members have registered with the group through Facebook to participate in the campaign, aimed at helping blue-collar workers.

“I always wanted to do something to help others – no matter how trivial it may have been,” said Ms Sayed, who lives in the Springs Community.

“I didn’t want to take on more than what I could handle. Hence sharing a fridge at our front porch sounded relatively easy and manageable.”

The first sharing fridge started on an individual level, but soon became the responsibility of the community, she said. One fridge can serve about 150 people a day.

“Someone has donated the fridge and someone else is sharing the space, while all of us fill it regularly with food several times a day so that those in need get,” Ms Sayed said. “It is like filling up your fridge at home about 11 times a day.”

On a single day, each fridge is filled with 400 to 500 pieces of fruit, 100 laban bottles, more than 100 bottles of juice and about 50 meals, as well as biscuits, dates and dried fruit.

The most popular foods and drinks are juices, laban, water and fresh fruit and vegetables, said Alison Vickery, whose sharing fridge is in Meadows 2.

“My fridge is serving about 100 workers a day and needs to be refilled at least 11 times,” said the 42-year-old Englishwoman and mother of three.

Ms Vickery said most of the fridges are being taken care of by mothers of young children.

“Most of us have difficulties leaving home to go for charity work,” she said. “Sharing Fridge is such a perfect solution to people like us who want to serve the humanity within their reach.”

Ms Vickery said that initially she was filling the fridge by herself, but now the responsibility is shared among her neighbours.

The initiative could also be a solution for food waste, although the group does not encourage the donation of leftovers.

“We welcome people to share their extra food but we don’t allow them to keep leftovers in the fridge,” she said.

“Our mantra is simple – share only that food with others which you wish to eat yourselves.”

Ms Sayed said her campaign started with word-of-mouth publicity and has received incredible response from workers.

“They are so grateful and appreciative,” she said. “The smiles on their faces just brighten up our day.

“We’re also helping them save that extra few dirhams a day so they don’t have to spend it on meals. This would mean more money to help their families back home.”

Mohammed Ramzan, a community gardener in Springs 5, said he and his co-workers are benefiting from this campaign.

“We are so happy to see fridges that we can use, especially in this heat.

“It is a great relief, especially when we get late at work and have to break our fast in the community.

“Sometimes we also take food from the fridge to our camps. We are not only saving money, but also eating fresh fruits and juices, which we can otherwise hardly afford.”

Ms Vickery said Dubai is a city with a heart of gold.

“Back in my home country, I cannot imagine keeping my fridge outside my house.

“First of all, someone would steal the fridge or take away the food.

“In Dubai, such things are next to impossible. Civic responsibilities are at their best in this country.”

Those who want to contribute and become part of the campaign can join its Facebook page, at facebook.com/groups/uaefridges.

akhaishgi@thenational.ae