x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Young Emiratis with spirit of service

A group of young Emiratis has made efforts to renovate a school that depends on charity for all of its functions.

YES they can: Members of Young Eager Steps, Fatma Anhaj, 19, Dana Almehza, 19, and Yassan Abdelhadi, 18, help clean Manar Al Eman Charity School in Ajman yesterday. Sarah Dea / The National
YES they can: Members of Young Eager Steps, Fatma Anhaj, 19, Dana Almehza, 19, and Yassan Abdelhadi, 18, help clean Manar Al Eman Charity School in Ajman yesterday. Sarah Dea / The National

A group of young Emirati volunteers has been rolling up their sleeves to scrub walls, floors, desks and windows at a charity school.

The campaign - dubbed Yes2School, Take a Stand, Lend a Hand - continued yesterday at Manar Al Eman Charity School in Ajman.

At the helm of the efforts was Young Eager Steps (YES), a group of UAE nationals whose members work together to give back to society.

The group's 25 members first visited the school three months ago before renovations began in December.

"We had a look at the school to assess what's going on and the big issue we noticed was the hygiene," said Mohammed Al Olama, 21, the group's treasurer.

"It was a disaster and I cannot imagine anyone studying in such atmosphere - the dust and scraps on the wall were unbelievable," he said.

The charity school provides free education to orphans, bedouins and expatriates who cannot afford to pay minimal fees for education. The school relies fully on charities and the public for funding.

The school for boys and girls accommodates 3,100 students of 36 nationalities, and offers instruction from grades 1 through 12. The student body includes 300 orphans.

When YES members first visited, they learnt that there were 20 classrooms with no air conditioners, and that the school had only two janitors. After approaching several companies to provide supplies and services, the group was able to install 52 whiteboards, more than 20 air conditioners, seven benches and three water coolers. The group also decided to paint and clean the school.

The complete renovations were made by a group of 100 volunteers from different ages, genders and nationalities.

Professional workers hired by YES painted the school and did other improvement work.

"We created a professional art room for the students," said group member Abdullah Al Nuaimi, 22. "The school felt very rough and dry, and we wanted to create an atmosphere that is colourful."

Mr Al Olama said the group wanted to "add a soul to the school. I hope our project will create a fundamental change in students' lives."We wanted to do something that promotes positive change and affects education in general."

Zainab Al Haram, the head of charitable projects at the school, expressed her gratitude toward the group.

"Mashallah on the youth, they did a great job. They brought us boards, coloured the classrooms, and built air conditioners. This new equipment helps the students focus more during class and it also keeps them motivated and wanting to come to school."

Fatma Al Haj, one of the volunteers, supervised a group of girls to clean the classrooms.

"In the UAE we don't have many volunteer Emirati groups," said the 19-year-old student. "When I heard about the Yes2School event, I wanted to be part of it to create positive change.

"Some people think that Emiratis don't do anything active in the society and that's not true," she said.

One of the students who will see change in the school is Thaker Natheer, 19, of Bangladesh, who has attended the school since he was in grade 1.

"It's a very good school," he said. "But we would like to get more facilities, especially sports facilities such as a closed gym. However, in terms of education, they provide us with all the necessary knowledge,"

Mr Natheer agreed that the school's hygiene needed improvement.

"I have a special illness and need to use the restroom often, but the lack of cleanliness forces me to leave the school and go to a mall instead," he said.

Mr Natheer added that he would like to see labs, "non-dusty" books in the library, bigger classrooms and a better roof for shade.

"I want our school to be like schools in the west and for students to love it," he said. "I have grown with the school and would love to bring my children here in the future."

On Tuesday, YES received a mention on Twitter from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

"I am observing your activities and proud of your volunteer work that serves the nation," Sheikh Mohammed tweeted in Arabic.

The YES members hope their work will improve students' lives.

"We wanted to give the students a new start to the school year," Mr Al Nuaimi said. "We want to create a healthy atmosphere, first of all, and a happy one as well."

aalhaddad@thenational.ae