Volunteers end up part of the family

Shane Phillips talks about how he uses his business network to help the charity work he does on the side.

Shane Phillips combines charity work with his day job as a consultant for the recruitment firm Stanton Chase International. Pawan Singh / The National
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Shane Phillips is a consultant for the executive recruitment firm Stanton Chase International and membership director of the Canadian Business Council in Dubai. He talks about using his business connections to help the charity work he does on the side.

Getting a gig volunteering wasn't easy when you moved to Dubai from Toronto a few years ago. What happened?

I went to [a couple of organisations] and they said "you can be a volunteer, but we have a six-month waiting list". I said: "Wait a minute. You don't need a volunteer if there's a six-month waiting list. Is there anyone who needs volunteers?"

That's how you wound up at the Special Families Support Group in Dubai. What do they do?

They help low-income families with children who have disabilities. We put on events and help the kids. Their parents are working 15 to 18 hours a day making ends meet. We'll grab the kids and take them to the park. With the Canadian Business Council and some of my work relationships as an executive search consultant, we were also able to hold some fund-raisers.

To help how, exactly?

Some of the kids couldn't go to school because their parents couldn't afford it. There was a Pakistani family whose father's shop got demolished. They had two children. The father, basically from the stress, had a heart attack and died in front of them. The mother never worked or was educated. She was in a jam and came to me and said: "Can you help raise money for these kids so they can go to school?"

But you have no real experience hosting fund-raisers. How did you leverage support from your business contacts?

I came back to the Canadian Business Council during Ramadan and said "how am I going to raise Dh60,000 (US$16,335)"? They hold an iftar and the council said: "Why don't we have an art auction? Go ahead and do it. It's all you." I had two weeks and was literally sweating. I had never been to an art gallery. I just sent out the invitation and started calling everyone I knew. Different sheikhas donated some of their art. Then galleries got behind it. We raised the money.

The council is hosting a gala tonight, where part of the proceeds will help cover tuition for special needs students. How else are you tapping business expertise to help your charity?

We're actually working with a company that does employee engagement surveys. When [a business] sends an engagement survey to 1,000 employees, for every employee that clicks on it Dh10 will go to the charity, to encourage employees to do the survey. We're also looking at different things to institutionalise donating.

* Neil Parmar