Nearly 4,000 boxes of daily necessities en route to workers

Box Appeal, a charity initiative to collect and distribute daily necessities to 10,000 workers over Ramadan, has distributed nearly 4,000 boxes so far.

Radisson Royal Hotel employee Nay Win Naing waits to hand out more boxes to be filled for workers in labour camps.
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DUBAI // As Nour Khatib strolls down an aisle in Carrefour, she ticks off a list of items including shaving cream, a toothbrush and shampoo.

The list is not her own. It comes from the Box Appeal, a charity initiative to collect and distribute daily necessities to 10,000 workers.

"It's funny how we take such simple things for granted," says Ms Khatib, 26.

"For me, these are things that are just everyday items lying around my house, but to these workers they mean everything. This is the least that I could do."

Ms Khatib's box is one of nearly 4,000 distributed so far this year as part of the one-month campaign.

The initiative, which is run by Radisson Blu and Park Inn hotels in the Middle East in collaboration with the Red Crescent, is in its fifth year and has provided more than 20,000 boxes worth a total of Dh2million over the past four years.

People can help by picking up a box from a participating hotel in Abu Dhabi, Dubai or Sharjah, filling it with the required items and returning it to the hotel.

Of the 3,907 boxes distributed so far, 600 have been filled and returned. Each box is valued at about Dh110, based on the items mentioned on the list.

"We're just over one week into the campaign now," says Marko Hytonen, the area vice president of the Rezidor Hotel Group. "We've seen so much support from individuals and companies so far, it really has been astonishing.

"However, it's imperative now that everyone who takes a box brings that box back to the Radisson Blu or Park Inn hotels. We need those boxes back if we're to succeed in helping 10,000 people."

Charlotte Newby, 34, picked up three boxes when the campaign was launched this year.

Ms Newby, who works with the Austrian Tourism Board, says unlike campaigns in which money is donated, this one has a "personal touch".

"You're never 100 per cent sure how this money will be used," she says. "But this allows you to actually think about the person you're helping while you're putting the items together."

Organisations are also giving the campaign a significant boost.

Rebecca Rees, the corporate communications manager at the property developer Limitless, says her organisation plans to fill 200 boxes.

"The Box Appeal is a great opportunity to bring our office and retail community together," Ms Rees says. "Ramadan is a time for reflection and giving, and we are delighted to be taking part."

Campaign organisers are grateful for the positive response and say requests are coming in daily.

"In our hotels we've heard stories of people taking 60 boxes and getting their friends to help fill them," says Klara Zakis, a public relations and communications manager with the Rezidor Hotel Group. "In Sharjah we had a 12 and a 14-year-old brother and sister fill 24 boxes using their own pocket money."

The initiative has crossed borders for the first time, extending to Oman, Bahrain and Egypt, and inspired volunteers there to lend a hand.

"In Oman, a team of students have taken it upon themselves and volunteered their services for this project," Ms Zakis says.

"The self-named Box Appeal Team will prepare posters to create more awareness at the school, be in charge of creating groups to fill the boxes and collecting all the boxes. It was heartening to see the children so enthusiastic about getting involved in the project," she adds.

Ms Zakis says the campaign continues to involve different segments of the community, with a new stand at the LuLu Hypermarket in Al Barsha, Dubai, and plans to make the boxes available in malls across Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.

The campaign ends on September 15 and the Red Crescent will distribute the boxes to workers on September 18.