x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Emiratis feed 50 impoverished children on final day of Philippines trip

Final episode of Beyond Borders, the series where six young Emiratis learn about life in the Philippines, airs this weekend.

Tasneem Alnaqbi hands out food to Filipino children as her journey, and that of five other young Emiratis, draws to a close. Courtesy Beyond Borders
Tasneem Alnaqbi hands out food to Filipino children as her journey, and that of five other young Emiratis, draws to a close. Courtesy Beyond Borders

ABU DHABI // After witnessing children living off rubbish tips in the slums of Manila, six Emiratis decided to try to help.

The group of three men and three women have been touring the Philippines as part of the Beyond Borders documentary series.

This week’s sixth and final episode follows the last day of the young volunteers’ life-changing trip.

“The previous day our hearts were hurting,” said Tasneem Alnaqbi, 23, recalling the group’s visit to the slums of the Tondo district.

The group saw children rummaging through rubbish on moving trucks and communities living on mounds of waste.

“It’s hard to see young boys working on the trucks by finding and selling garbage and mountains of trash 30 metres high,” said Mariam Al Kuwaiti, 17.

But the group’s spirits were lifted when they were given the chance to help 50 children at one of the many feeding programmes, which provide malnourished nursery and primary pupils with meals.

“Most of them don’t get enough food, so it feels great to give back to the community,” said Ahmed Al Ghurair, 19.

Feeding, singing and playing with the children seemed to go a long way in lifting the volunteers’ low morale.

“From my excitement and happiness I took one of the kids on my lap and started fixing her hair,” said Mariam.

“This experience makes me forget about how tired I am and makes me want to stay with them in the Philippines.”

Fatimah Abdullah Farah, 21, also saw her mood markedly improve.

“This has really touched me,” she said. “I was affected a lot because I saw how bad a situation they were in during this trip and I’m more relaxed after helping them like this.”

Although happy to be contributing to the children’s wellbeing, Tasneem did not want to stop there.

“Even though we’re giving them food, these kids need much more and I want to give them what they need because they are lacking a lot more than food,” she said.

When it was time for dessert, the volunteers brought in an ice-cream cart from the street and were subsequently surrounded by screaming and smiling children.

“You couldn’t even see Mohammed, he had so many kids on and around him,” said Ahmed, talking about Mohammed Al Ameri.

Another task on the final day was to choose one of the projects they had encountered during their two-week trip to take part in the Zayed Future Energy Prize.

The people running the winning project would travel to Abu Dhabi during the emirate’s Sustainability Week so they could represent their idea.

After much debate and a final vote, the Emiratis nominated Litre of Light, a project providing underprivileged households with sustainable and affordable light using a plastic bottle, sheet metal, water and bleach.

“We saw a lot of the Filipinos living in poverty without electricity,” said Tasneem.

“Imagine if we develop Litre of Light how many people could benefit from it.”

Illiac Diaz, the brains behind the project, was grateful and surprised when the group told him.

“I teach how to make a bulb and you send me to one of the biggest conferences on renewable energy,” he said.

“I could help more people with more access and you’re helping me share it with others.”

After a farewell dinner with their host families, all six Emiratis took their last Jeepney ride to Manila’s International Airport.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Ahmed about heading home. “Of course, I miss my family and friends but it was a great experience and I’m going to miss the people I met here.”

The final episode will air on Friday on MBC1 at 2pm, with a rerun on Saturday at 6.30am.

talsubaihi@thenational.ae