'Firstly, I do it because I am a Muslim'

The ranks of the UAE Red Crescent Authority's volunteers are growing, and long-time members among encouraging more people to help others.

Suhaib Swaid, a logistics manager in the capital, has been donating his time for 16 years.
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ABU DHABI // The ranks of the UAE Red Crescent Authority's volunteers are growing, and long-time members such as Suhaib Swaid are among those encouraging more people to spend time helping others. From the cyclone that devastated parts of the east coast in 2007, to a fire that broke out in an apartment in the capital last year, the RCA's volunteers often step in to help during times of crisis.

By day Mr Swaid, 42, works as a logistics manager in the capital. But his free time is spent working with and for people in need. A Palestinian born and raised in the UAE, he has been volunteering for 16 years, even before the RCA's volunteer department was officially opened. "Firstly, I do it because I am a Muslim," said the father of two. "We must help other people if they are Muslims or non-Muslims. Also it makes me happy to help other people. Many people say to me that I lose my time, but I don't see it like that. I feel like I am praying when I am doing this."

Mr Swaid volunteers with the RCA at least a few hours every week, depending on the need. Some days he can be found working at the RCA's offices, other times he volunteers around the country. "I like doing everything. But my favourite thing is to pass on my knowledge of first aid and train other volunteers." His experience was put to good use late last year when a fire broke out in an apartment building in Abu Dhabi. According to Mr Swaid, police immediately contacted the RCA, which sent a team, providing support and counselling to families whose homes were affected.

"We checked the people for shock and gave them water, made sure they were OK," he said. "Then we helped to shift them to hotels and brought them food and clothes." Increasingly, young people such as Abdullah Hassan, 26, from Abu Dhabi, are also signing up to become volunteers. Mr Hassan, who works as an inspector with a government department, has been volunteering with various organisations including the RCA for several years.

"Volunteering is one of our traditions and part of our religion," he said. "It makes me feel happy and as though I have the power to really do something." He has accompanied RCA delegations on a number of overseas trips, including to Sudan, and feels a sense of responsibility to others. "We need more people to do this, as no matter how many people volunteer, there is always a need somewhere." zconstantine@thenational.ae