Young Emiratis create charity for UAE's poor

Young Emiratis have established a group that provides clothing and other items to poor people in the UAE.

Dubai, Feb 14th, 2012 -- (L to R)  Founding members of 1971 charity group Hassa Bintamim and Almurr Almarri are photographed at their donation collection tent at Dukkan Al Downtown in Dubai, February 14, 2012. The group's aim is to "give back" to their country. (Sarah Dea/ The National)
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DUBAI // Six Emiratis have banded together to give charity a younger face.

The group, named “1971” in honour of the UAE’s founding year, is collecting clothing, toys, books, Islamic items and stationery for low-income families in the Emirates, with a priority on nationals.

“A lot of teenagers, the only thing they care about is the latest bags or going out with friends,” said a group member, Hessa bin Tamim, 20.

“They don’t think about, ‘Why don’t I go volunteer and help?’ We want to raise awareness among youth to try to volunteer.”

Group members say there are misconceptions about wealth and UAE nationals.

“What made us start this campaign is that we have local friends who we never knew needed money or food,” said Hamama bin Harib, 24, a co-founder.

“I have a local friend who told me once she did not have Dh300 to go to the doctor to check on a colon issue she had.

“Not all Emiratis are rich. We used to think so too, but we know better now that we have seen some of their living conditions.”

Ms bin Tamim said some Emiratis looked rich but lived in harsh conditions. “They have too much pride to admit they need help.”

Almurr Al Marri, 19, another member, blamed the media for the inaccurate picture of the Emirates.

“People perceive the society as a very rich society but they don’t look at the norms of the society,” Mr Al Marri said. “They concentrate on the extremes so when they think of UAE they think of Dubai, and when they think of Dubai, you have the extreme people who have luxury cars and live luxury … and they go off topic and talk about labour workers.”

The six founded the charity in May last year. Members have set up a tent where they will receive donations as part of the Dukkan Al Downtown event organised by Emaar.

The emphasis is on Emiratis, but 1971 wants to improve the living conditions of all poor people in the UAE by collecting items, although cash donations are not accepted.

“When we went to Fujairah, we came across many poor people who were talented but don’t have the means to pursue their dreams,” Ms bin Tamim. “So we provide them with the things they need.”

Members use their own money to help some low-income families and deliver items personally.

They have taken part in several campaigns in collaboration with other charities. They have helped with clothes and food for about 8,000 municipality workers, and assisted in cleaning up Jumeirah Street after last year’s National Day celebrations.

The group also plans to work with organisations such as Dubai Cares and the Red Crescent Authority for donations abroad.

Mr Al Marri said donors could specify where they wanted the items to be delivered.

“We have accepted donations from a Pakistani family who wished to send four boxes for the Pakistan flood,” he said.

Some group members have gone abroad to live among poor people.

Taking part in such trips has inspired them to create change back home, they said.

“From my experience in 2009 to Thailand, the things I saw were like a dream,” she said. “Are there people living in 2009 with no electricity, clothes, food and education, which is the most important thing?

“So when I came back, I thought if I want to see a change in my own country, I have to start it.”

The group can be followed on Twitter, @1971team.

Donations to the group can be made near the Pavilion at Dukkan Al Downtown, an outdoor shopping experience along Emaar Boulevard in Downtown Dubai, from 4-10pm each day until March 3.