Student volunteers honoured

A successful first year sees 4,300 Emirati students taking part in soclal volunteering programme.

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ABU DHABI // Some 4,300 Emirati students who took part in a volunteering programme were honoured at a ceremony yesterday to celebrate the scheme's successful first year. Students from 18 schools in Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Ras al Khaimah, Sharjah, Al Ain, Fujairah, Sila and Al Gharbia took part in a total of 22 different programmes as part of Takatof, the Emirates Foundation's social volunteering programme.

One group, from the Hamdan bin Mohammed High School for Boys, rode around on a blood donation bus telling their peers about the importance of giving blood. "We learnt a lot about ourselves through volunteering," said Yacoub al Shamsi, in grade 10 at the school. "We began caring about our country more, simply because we were asked to come up with ideas on how to become functioning members of society."

They worked in collaboration with the blood bank to launch a campaign entitled The Generous Vein to encourage young people to donate blood. The students travelled on a Blood Donor Mobile Unit bus throughout the capital, educating other young people in the importance of blood donation and urging them to donate. "This celebration is an important step to show recognition and appreciation for these hard-working students," said Maytha al Habsi, the director of Takatof.

"We are celebrating an amazing success ... this project gave us the chance to see how innovative and creative our students can be once they are given the opportunity from their leaders." The projects ranged from health awareness campaigns that targeted obesity, highlighted the importance of donating blood and encouraged patient care, to environmental campaigns that had children planting trees, picking up litter and beautifying neighbourhoods.

"There were so many innovative ideas," said Ms al Habsi. "Students were thinking of the environment, or of how to clean up their neighbourhoods, or how to visit patients in need, or fix and maintain their schools. "We were pleased by the standards of the proposals submitted." In its first year, the scheme was open to students in grades 10, 11 and 12, although the scope may be widened in future years.

The foundation is looking for applications for next year's programme. Grants of up to Dh10,000 (US$2,720) are available for the selected projects.