x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Emiratis on Beyond Borders series reveal life-changing lessons learnt in Manila

Six young Emiratis say they have learnt a lot about themselves and the world through their TV series trip to the Philippines.

Mariam Al Kuwaiti says meeting Filipino children who struggle to get enough to eat has prompted her to change her habits and stop throwing food away. Courtesy Beyond Borders
Mariam Al Kuwaiti says meeting Filipino children who struggle to get enough to eat has prompted her to change her habits and stop throwing food away. Courtesy Beyond Borders

ABU DHABI // Most people would expect a trip to the Philippines to be relaxing, full of beautiful beaches, landmarks and rich culture.

But for six young Emiratis, their visit opened their eyes to the difficulties faced by many in the impoverished nation.

Their 15-day visit, recorded by the Beyond Borders documentary series, changed their lives.

Leaving behind their home comforts, including electronic devices, they stayed with local families and volunteered at factories, farms and charity projects in and around the capital, Manila.

The three men and three women saw ingenuity, entrepreneurship and sustainability as well as extreme poverty.

“It opened our eyes,” said Fatimah Abdullah Farah, 21 .

“We saw the people who need charity are not just pictures but they are real people we lived and spent time with.”

Since meeting those who have significantly less, Fatimah now appreciates everything she has.

“I’ve stopped shopping, even for shoes,” she said.

“I found there are more important things to spend on, such as my education and charity projects that I am now involved in.”

The graphic design student at Zayed University is volunteering her artistic talents to paint children’s faces at various events.

After the airing of the show, produced by Image Nation, she said felt obligated to share her experiences so people might change their ways for the better.

“Just last night a group of girls recognised me and asked me about my experience,” Fatimah said.

Mariam Al Kuwaiti said many of her habits have changed.

“I don’t buy what I want, I buy what I need,” she said. “Even my eating habits have changed as I only eat enough to satisfy me and won’t throw food away.”

The UAE University student also said she was having an effect on her family and friends.

“My brother is used to consuming a lot, so I’m reminding him all the time,” she said.

Mariam said she was trying to tackle her seven-year-old sibling’s habit of taking long showers by telling him about those who barely have enough water to drink, never mind wash.

“He’s always asking me if the series is made up or if it’s real because he can’t believe kids his age barely having enough to eat,” she said.

“People are not only listening to me but their habits are changing because they can see it on the show.”

When sharing his profound experiences, Mohammed Al Ameri, 18, said his family and friends found his stories hard to believe.

“I value every dirham I have now and don’t spend nearly as much and I’m always telling those around me you don’t need more iPads or iPods,” he said.

Mohammed, from Al Gharbia, said he had been teaching those around him about the hardships faced by many Filipinos in the UAE and the value of their friendships.

Ahmed Al Ghurair, 19, said he had learnt a lesson his father had been trying to teach him.

“I realise the value of money now and the responsibility of those with abundance have to make life better for others,” he said.

talsubaihi@thenational.ae