UAE expat tries to set up a chain of good deeds

American expat launches Pay it Forward UAE Facebook page in an attempt to bring more acts of kindness to the country.

Nadia Mashar, an American expatriate who performs random acts of kindness in Dubai and wants more residents to follow her lead as part of her Pay it Forward UAE campaign. Ravindranath K / The National
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DUBAI // Be it the gift of a toy to a child in hospital or a voucher slipped under the windscreen wiper on someone's car, random acts of kindness can make a big difference to all involved.

This is the premise behind Pay it Forward UAE, a community project begun by expatriate Nadia Mashar, 27, who has lived and worked in Dubai in the private-equity sector for just over a year.

The aim is simple and the options are varied.

There are 101 acts listed on the Facebook page created by the Californian, who has had ties to the country since 1992 when her parents started a small business in Dubai.

So far Ms Mashar, who carried out the same initiative at home in the US, albeit on a smaller scale, has ticked off about one third of the items on the list, which includes acts of kindness such as giving away your seat on the Metro or a bus, donating used clothes, or giving cold water to construction workers.

"I've done several of those things back in the States," said Ms Mashar, who would normally concentrate her efforts on helping the homeless.

The UAE project came to life after she received help on a personal project from a friend of her brother's.

Despite not knowing her well, his offer made Ms Mashar think about the simple effect of giving.

"I was just touched that someone would help me. After a few days, I sat down and put it [the project] together," she said on Tuesday.

The first random act of kindness Ms Mashar did in Dubai was to leave a magazine outside the front door of her neighbour's flat.

"If I do something for someone, I don't want them to do that to me. You know? I want them to go and do it to someone else," she said.

"The point is not to give back, because then the circle breaks; then it becomes between you and another person.

"It has to keep on going. As far as what I did from the list, once I finished the list, I basically wanted to do as many things as possible."

Which is why Ms Mashar's handbag contains several cans of cat food alongside the normal items.

Doing a good deed does not have to be a grand gesture, she said. It can be as simple as leaving food out for a stray animal.

"There's still something we can do today. Most of those things on the list, most of us can do," Ms Mashar said.

The project is beneficial to both those that receive and the givers, she said.

"If you look at it from a selfish point of view, it's little things that don't take a lot of money or time," Ms Mashar said.

"You get the type of excitement - or, at least, I did - more than going to the best party in town."

Although nervous the first time she visited a local hospital to give a toy to one of the younger patients, Ms Mashar has since made plans to visit more patients.

"I don't know if it's too much to ask for people but ideally, I'd love that people would work through the entire list," she said. "I'm trying to work through everything that I'm capable of doing.

"In an ideal world, yes, I would like as many people to do all those things.

"My idea is that if a person tries to do at least one item off the list, if there is a good amount of people doing it, it could make a difference.

"For me, I'm never going to stop."

To see Ms Mashar's list of 101 kind acts, visit and search for "Pay it Forward UAE".