How the UAE’s generous spirit will rise to the ‘giving’ challenge

President, Sheikh Khalifa, has decreed that 2017 will be the Year of Giving.

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ABU DHABI // The President, Sheikh Khalifa, has decreed that 2017 will be the Year of Giving. This could be one of the most transformational experiences we will go through as citizens and residents of the UAE.

Just last month I was given the opportunity to go on a mission with Dubai Cares to help build schools in Senegal, and it changed my life.

In the group were volunteers from all over the world, from countries such as Italy, Belgium, India, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Lebanon, China, Croatia and the Philippines, as well as the UAE. What he had in common was that we all call the UAE our home. We all came together to support and give back. It changed how we saw the world, but more importantly it changed how we saw ourselves and all that we could do to change the lives of others.

So what are the specific changes that I expect to see in the UAE throughout the Year Of Giving? Well, first and foremost what is interesting is that just this past Ramadan I was interviewing Ohood Al Roumi, the Minister of State for Happiness, on finding happiness during Ramadan. She told me: “It is scientifically proven that giving makes us happier, it gives us a sense of worth and purpose in our communities.” So what I expect to see is a significant increase in social and giving initiatives at both a government and community level, increasing the impact we can all have on each other’s lives, and in turn increasing our levels of happiness and self-fulfillment.

Secondly, I think it will provide a strong source of encouragement for young people to include themselves more in government and community initiatives. The thing with volunteering and giving back is academic performance and work experience come a distant second to an individual’s willingness to give back as well as their passion for making the world a better place. Therefore I see the Year of Giving providing additional opportunities for young people to experience the world, and additionally giving them a strong sense of confidence going into the future.

Lastly I feel it will give a renewed sense of purpose to the citizens and residents of the UAE. The past year has been a tough one economically and geo-politically and a lot of people are wondering what the future will hold for them, or wondering what to do with their lives going forward.

I turn to Mahatma Gandhi for his words on giving: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” I truly felt the power of those words during my trip to Senegal. My regrets of yesterday and worries for tomorrow disappeard, all that mattered was the moment, making a difference and working hard to give the children a better education and ultimately the members of the community better lives. It was a strong reminder that no matter what is going on in the world there is always work to be done, and there is always something I can do to help.

There is so much we can do during the Year Of Giving, not just for each other in the UAE but for the billions of people around the world. I have no doubt our leadership have set high ambitions for our giving, since we are already the largest donor of foreign aid in the world. But as we have seen time and time again with the UAE, when we all come together under one inspiring mission and vision we turn dreams into reality, we make the impossible possible, we change the world.

Khalid Al Ameri is an Emirati columnist and social commentator. He lives in Abu Dhabi with his wife and two sons.