Hundreds of Dubai residents hand out water to workers who brave heat

Seven hundred people spent more than three hours handing out 10,000 water bottles and interacting with workers.

Dana El-Kalache and Ammar Al Alwan distribute water to workers on a construction site as part of the Sameness Project's campaign during the hot summer months. Antonie Robertson / The National
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DUBAI // With temperatures soaring across the UAE, a group of Dubai residents is on a mission to remind others about the tough conditions some have to endure on a daily basis.

Seven hundred people spent more than three hours handing out 10,000 water bottles to labourers, gardeners, delivery drivers, petrol station and road workers last Saturday, as part of the Sameness Project’s Water for Workers initiative. The drive is an ongoing project.

For Dana El-Kalache, a 27-year-old Lebanese expatriate who used her blog The ScoopDXB to promote the project, it was her second time taking part in the initiative.

“I love to promote homegrown organisations and businesses as there are so many amazing concepts to be proud of in the UAE,” she said.

“The Sameness Project stands out with their main purpose being to create moments of sameness across the UAE and you really realise how much a smile and few kind words can make a difference. The energy that’s transmitted is amazing, and the workers are so approachable and fun.”

She said the reward was priceless.

“They really appreciate the fact that you’ve chosen to go out of your way to make a nice gesture,” Ms El-Kalache said. “The things they’d say – like call me ‘sister’ or say ‘God bless you’ – gave me goose bumps and made me truly happy.

“We are all workers in Dubai and, no matter what our occupation is, we are all the same in our humanity, so it’s nice to appreciate the work of others and to go the extra mile to make someone around you smile.”

Embroidered handkerchiefs with messages translated into different languages were also handed out.

“The volunteer flags have beautiful quotes, like ‘Where there is Life, There is Hope’ or ‘I wonder how many people I’ve looked at all my life and never seen’,” she said. “I absolutely loved it because I think it’s the main purpose of the initiative, to simply see the people that are a part of our day-to-day life.”

Iraqi Ammar Al Alwan, a 29-year-old resident of Dubai, said such workers had contributed a great deal to the emirate. “The heat this summer is peaking and I feel this initiative allows the people in Dubai to reach out to the workers,” he said. “It’s not about what you give them, it is more about the gesture and the interaction that the workers appreciate.”

Suhail Mohammed, a Bangladeshi who works on a construction site in Dubai Marina, said the water made a difference for him. “It is nice to have people come to you and make such a nice gesture,” he said. “We have long days on site and then long hours on a bus so it is a nice break for us.”

His colleague, Abdul Rahman, said 12-hour shifts feel longer in high temperatures. “It becomes more exhausting closer to summer time,” he said. “But we are thankful when people do such good deeds.”

Johnny Kennaugh, a 31-year-old Dubai resident from New Zealand, started the project with five friends three years ago. “We were looking at ideas which [showed] that, despite what separates people, like race, culture, class and religion, we’re all human beings,” he said.

“It’s a nice concept and makes sense but we wanted to live it out on the ground. We were going to an event at the time and had extra water bottles so we stopped to give them to labourers, but rather than just walking away we created interactions where they can be two human beings with water being the [means of] interaction.”

The group, which calls itself “social innovators”, managed to cover all of Dubai and Sharjah. “We have four stations set up where we explain the project,” he added. “Abu Dhabi is the next place we’re looking at.”

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