A new law that bans volunteering without permission will not prevent community groups from carrying out good deeds this Ramadan, a government official said.
Ahmed Julfar, director general of the Community Development Authority, said the goal was for people and organisations to understand the requirements of the new legislation, announced in Dubai last month.
“We don’t want to stop anybody from volunteering. We want to encourage more people to volunteer. Gradually we want to make sure people are aware of the requirements [of the law] so those who have been volunteering can still continue,” said Mr Julfar, speaking after a CDA conference on Tuesday to announce plans to distribute 32,000 suhoor meals during Ramadan.
Asked if organisations and individuals who regularly distributed meals to workers during Ramadan would require to register all volunteers and inform the CDA about their plans, he said people should continue to do "good work".
“We want to create awareness but not stop people. We would like volunteering to be a way of life. The law is to protect the rights of volunteers here,” Mr Julfar said.
Some 700 people volunteered with the CDA during Ramadan last year and the authority hopes the number will double this year.
Community groups and other organisations are required to obtain permission to carry out voluntary work under new laws announced by the Dubai Government in April.
ID Cards and records
The CDA should be contacted before any voluntary work is undertaken, volunteers must carry official ID cards and organisations registered with the CDA should keep records of their activities, as per the legislation seeking to regulate the voluntary sector.
The move announced by the Dubai government follows the introduction of laws governing charity fundraising in 2016.
This legislation set out fines and jail terms of up to a year for the unauthorised collection of money.
The recent volunteering law also stated that fundraising could only be carried out by a government-registered charity to ensure that the money was being raised for legitimate reasons.
Volunteers who visited workers’ accommodations to conduct health, nutrition, exercise and educational classes said small groups did not have the budget or administrative staff to maintain records of people who volunteered their time, ensure they signed agreements and provide insurance coverage against injuries.
JV, a volunteer who works with the labourers, welcomed the CDA statement but said groups need further clarity.
“It’s good that people can distribute food during Ramadan but there are still grey areas and people are scared of doing good work. People would take dry food like rice and lentils to a camp every week but now they must find a group that is registered and only then can they approach workers’ camps. It is a much longer, time consuming process,” he said.
“We understand that the reason the law has come in is because some people were raising money and that needed to be regulated. But most people are taking time off from work and their personal life just to distribute foodstuff and essentials to people in need. The law requires more clarity so all volunteer work does not need to be through a registered organisation.”
The CDA on Tuesday called on people to volunteer for a youth-led programme titled, ‘Their Suhour on Us’ aiming to draw residents to distribute meals near seven mosques in Dubai and two mosques in Um Al Quwain.
Halema Mohammed, head of CDA’s youth council, urged the young and elderly to come forward and register on the Dubai Volunteering app or on the CDA website.
“People who live in the workers’ accommodations don’t have money to buy suhour meals that may cost Dh7 or 10 every day for 30 days. Instead of going to a restaurant to chat or a mall to hang out for no reason, this is a good opportunity for the youth to do valuable work and give back to people who need food,” she said.
The meal packages will contain rice, vegetables, chicken, juice, fruit and dates. There are also plans for packages to be distributed via a drone that will be monitored by people with disabilities directly to the labour accommodation.
The drone that will carry about 10 meal packets per trip is in the testing phase.