Charity makes public appeal for food items in Labor of Love drive for camp's cleaning staff

Abu Dhabi charity is organising a food drive for the cleaning staff at West Coast Company.

ABU DHABI // Residents are being asked to help the emirate's labourers by throwing a few extra items into their trolleys during their weekly shopping.

Labor of Love UAE, an Abu Dhabi charity, is organising a food donation drive for the cleaning staff at West Coast Company labour camp in Mussaffah.

A bag of rice, a bottle of cooking oil, a few cans of corned beef, tuna and sardines, and a packet of instant noodles will go a long way for the workers.

There are 103 women who live in the camp. More than 50 per cent are Filipino, while the rest are Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi, Ethiopian, Indonesian and Indian.

Angel Wesley, who runs the charity, said that the women had specifically requested the items.

Although the company provides a food allowance, the women prefer to send as much as they can to their family back home, she said.

"Many of us try to send all our money home to our families," said Paraluman Gonzales, 53, the assistant labour camp manager who is originally from the Philippines.

"We appreciate what Labor of Love has been doing for us since last year."

She earns Dh1,500 each month, sends Dh1,000 to the Philippines, and spends the remaining Dh500 on food and toiletries.

Luchie Beredo, 25, a cleaner at West Coast for about five years, earns about Dh800 and sends home Dh300 to Dh500 every month.

"I spend on rice, vegetables and fish plus the usual toiletries every month," she said. "We're really happy that some people are thinking about us and care enough to donate the items."

But many of the women often have a hard time getting enough supplies.

The cleaning staff who work in offices get Dh620 a month for an eight-hour shift, while those assigned to shopping malls work for 12 hours and earn about Dh1,000, according to Ms Gonzales.

Labor of Love UAE will also be distributing care packages to the women at the end of this month. Each of the packages normally contains a toothbrush, toothpaste, sanitary pads, soap, tissues and shampoo.

The charity is also seeking contributions for winter jackets and sponsors for sportswear for upcoming sports competitions at the men's labour camps.

In September last year, it began its Sponsor a Wish programme for 850 workers.

The initiative provides gifts to men from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh who have worked for their companies for more than five years, as a token of appreciation for their hard work.

The items range from a pair of jeans to shoes, water kettles and fans. Some of the most sought-after items have been watches and T-shirts.

So far, 250 items have been donated and were distributed to workers at a New Year's Eve party.

Monthly meditation courses, art and IT classes, and health lectures are the other planned activities sponsored by Labor of Love this year.

Ms Wesley, who works as a lawyer for a private company in Abu Dhabi, has seen similar organisations such as Feel Great Helping, rally around the same cause.

"It is clear to us that the UAE community wants to be involved in volunteering and charity activities, and that assisting the country's labourers is high on their list of priorities," she said.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, had urged the public to use the seventh anniversary of his accession on January 4 as an opportunity to honour domestic workers, janitors, public transport drivers, construction workers and office support workers.

"His decision to choose this group of hard-working individuals as the recipients of his graciousness sends a message to all of us in the UAE," Ms Wesley said.

"We too should be thankful for all the hard work that these men and women have put into making the UAE the wonderful nation that we enjoy today."