A team of volunteers 'draw big smiles' as they distribute free meals in the spirit of the holy month
Ramadan volunteers bring food and good mood to Dubai construction site
It's midday and a sweaty 38°C as hundreds of construction workers are finishing up a tough day under the sun at a Dubai site. Yet before their bus arrives, one team of dedicated volunteers are determined to put smiles on their faces.
"Just giving a bottle of water draws a big smile. This is what I and the other volunteers love to do,” said Mrs Swathi Santhosh, a fridge manager at the Ramadan Sharing Fridges initiative.
The team is handing out 600 environmentally-friendly bags laden with snacks, juices and yogurts near Al Falasi Residence in Bur Dubai. That's around three trolleys worth, with most of the food and beverages taken home to enjoy in private or for iftar for those who are fasting.
“The initiative has brought people from different background and nationalities together for a single purpose – to provide meals for labourers and those on low-incomes,” said Mrs Santhosh.
No leftovers or cooked meals are allowed as they can get contaminated or fester with sickness-causing bugs when kept in the heat for a long time, there is just fresh produce and supplies. "We want to make sure the food is safe for them and not spoiled,” said Mrs Santhosh.
“I look forward to the distributions made by the team of Ramadan Sharing Fridges. I enjoy the bananas and yoghurt especially,” said Zubair Khan, a 28-year-old construction worker from Pakistan.
When asked how he copes with working in the heat, he said: “I need to work during these hours as its before our midday break. I take some time to rest during the shift.
“I feel dizzy sometimes. Then I rest for a while and later continue working.”
Mr Khan lives in labour accommodation in the Al Aweer suburb of Dubai. “Seven people live with me in one room,” he said. “I am satisfied with my income; however, I do not manage to send any money back home.”
Mohammed Rasel, a 29-year-old security guard from Bangladesh, who carries six bags of food to take for his colleagues who are unable to leave their work at the site, expressed gratitude for the good work the volunteers do.
“I and my colleagues are always very excited when the volunteers distribute these packages for us. The juices are cold and we enjoy it,” said Mr Rasel.
“The weather is hot, but this is our job. My colleagues and I have gotten used to it.”
Volunteers at the Ramadan Sharing Fridges initiative are also dedicated to sustainability, using bags that can be reused and asking the labourers to return them rather than throw them away once they have retrieved the items.
Volunteer Diya Kaushal, from India, said: “The men appreciate that we distribute meals for them – it’s almost like a family connection. We clap with them when someone returns one of our bags and they say they feel happy about it.
“I've been volunteering for the past three years. Just like the other volunteers, my relationship with the men has developed in that time. Some are from the same place that I come from: South India. We take pictures together and send them to our families back home,” said the 35-year-old.
The initiative, which includes stocking public fridges with supplies that can be taken out by anyone in need, has grown in popularity over the past three years. There are more than 200 fridges in action around the country this year, compared to 176 fridges last year.
“Life can be quite expensive,” said Mrs Santhosh.