Volunteers in Abu Dhabi pack thousands of donated items for families affected by Beirut blast

Residents can drop more items, including baby formula and sanitary products, to the Jiu Jitsu Arena in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday and Thursday evening

UAE Volunteers programme 'From UAE and For Lebanon' at at the jiu jitsu arena in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday evening. Courtesy Emirates Foundation
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A group of volunteers in Abu Dhabi have come together to prepare donation boxes to support those affected by the deadly explosions in Beirut.

More than 85 Emiratis and residents collected items on Tuesday from donors including clothes, toiletries and long life foodstuff which will be sent to Lebanon next week.

Volunteers called on residents to donate more essentials, including baby formula and sanitary products for women.

Thousands of donations were separated, sterilised and packed at the Jiu Jitsu Arena in Abu Dhabi as part of the From UAE and For Lebanon initiative, launched by UAE Volunteers and Emirates Foundation.

Two more donation drives will be held this week, on Wednesday and Thursday from 4pm to 8pm.

Those interested were encouraged to sign up via the UAE Volunteers portal or by turning up at the venue on the day. Individuals looking to donate can also drop items off at the car park during the allotted times.

Salem Bin Beshr, 30, was one of many residents who lent a helping hand during the donation drive.

UAE Volunteers programme 'From UAE and For Lebanon' at at the jiu jitsu arena in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday evening. Courtesy Emirates Foundation
Volunteers collect clothes, food and toiletries in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Emirates Foundation

"Some of my best friends are from Lebanon so when I heard about this opportunity I wanted to be a part of it," he told The National.

“The explosion was heart-breaking and I remember calling my friend when it happened to check if he and his family were okay.

“Their home was damaged but thankfully no one was injured.

“We cannot prevent what happened but when society comes together like this we can help put a smile on peoples’ faces in hard times.”

Mr Beshr is no stranger to volunteer opportunities. He was also one of the first people who participated in the UAE’s volunteer Covid-19 vaccination trial.

On Tuesday, he led a small team who packed hundreds of items which will be flown to Lebanon by the Emirates Red Crescent.

“I always want to be part of something that helps benefit humans,” he said.

“What was so special to me on Tuesday was that so many nationalities came together to help our Lebanese brothers and sisters.

“There were people from the UAE, UK, India, many types of nationalities.

“One Lebanese man was even driving by, saw what we were doing and then stopped to help. It was humbling.”

More than 50 people signed up for the programme online, but a spokeswoman for Emirates Foundation said many more volunteers showed up on the day to help.

Emirati Maryam Abdulrahman Altenaiji, a recent university graduate, was one of them.

She said if people were unable to volunteer they could help by donating items instead.

Salem Bin Beshr joins volunteers on Tuesday evening in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy: Salem Bin Beshr
Salem Bin Beshr joins volunteers on Tuesday evening in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy: Salem Bin Beshr

“On Tuesday we received a lot of food donations and clothes,” she said.

“For the next few days it would be great if people could donate things like baby food and formula and sanitary products for women.

“Essentials items are important but sometimes I think we forget about the specific needs of some people, like women and babies, so to get more of these products would be really appreciated.”

Ms Altenaiji said she heard about the volunteering opportunity from one of the programme’s supervisors and said she would continue to help until the end of the week.

“I have friends from Lebanon that lost quite a lot of family members in the explosion,” she said

“Regardless of where you are from, when humans see and hear things like that it hurts a lot.

“It doesn’t take much for a person to dedicate some of their time to volunteer and at times like this it is vital that we help each other.”

So far, the UAE has sent tens of millions of dirhams worth of aid to Lebanon including protective equipment to limit the spread of Covid-19.

The explosion, which happened on August 4, killed 177 people, injured more than 6,000 and left thousands of homes and businesses destroyed.

On World Humanitarian Day, Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, chairman of Emirates Red Crescent and the Ruler’s Representative in Al Dhafra, hailed the Emirates for supporting those affected by disasters and conflicts.

He said volunteerism played a vital role in helping to ease the hardship seen around the world.