ABU DHABI // An aid worker in Pakistan is calling on Emirati and expatriate students to volunteer to join his charity mission.
Todd Shea, an American, is visiting the UAE to invite youngsters to give up some of their holiday time for charity work.
He believed it would grant them an insight into the lives of the underprivileged.
“When young people see suffering and misery with their own eyes it develops their empathy and concern for those less fortunate and gives them an opportunity to directly serve them and show love and compassion,” said Mr Shea.
“There’s nothing better in the world than to serve our fellow human beings and make their lives better.”
Mr Shea, 49, originally from Maryland, moved to Pakistan after the earthquake of 2005 to volunteer in relief projects.
He established the Comprehensive Disaster Response Service organisation to run community projects in rural Pakistan.
“I chose to stay in Pakistan not just because I fell in love with the country, its beautiful landscapes, people, food and culture, but also I wanted to see Pakistan emerge from troubled times and realise its amazing potential,” he said.
His organisation has, so far, managed to help more than two million people, he said.
The tasks he asked volunteers to undertake included assisting doctors and nurses, helping to stock medicines, cleaning hospitals, loading equipment or admin-based work. “There are so many ways to be helpful. The sky is the limit,” he said.
Mr Shea was a musician in the US until his life was changed by the September 11 attacks in 2001. “I was preparing for my much-awaited big concert in New York City on September 12 but then 9/11 happened and I ended up working at the site of the fallen World Trade Centre twin towers for a week,” he said.
“Before 9/11, all I wanted to be was a famous musician, but after 9/11 I just didn’t have that desire in my heart for a music career. I saw a world that I hadn’t realised was so messed up.”
Mr Shea believed the perceived security risks of working in Pakistan were often exaggerated.
“I’m a white American who’s spent a large amount of the last 10 years in remote and ‘dangerous’ areas and I have not been threatened once,” he said.
“We’ve had more than 1,500 volunteers who have worked with us and none of them have had any threats either.”
Munira Al Balooshi, 20, an undergraduate student in Sharjah, said she was keen to volunteer. “I am following Mr Shea through social media and am very impressed with the way he is working selflessly for a country that’s not his own. He is a true believer in humanity,” she said.
She believed volunteering for overseas charity work complied with the wishes of the UAE’s leaders to assist the impoverished. “Our leaders support the youth to get involved in charity activities. This will not only give happiness to our families but also to those we will be serving,” she said.
For more information visit cdrspakistan.org