While negative stereotypes typically represent the youth, most youngsters in the country actually are happy, productive members of society.
Gone are the days when the UAE youth were considered a wasted bunch partying late into the night. Students today believe in proactively giving back to society, and are engaged in some form of volunteering or the other, as compared to a few years back.
“Awareness has definitely risen,” said members of the UAE-based youth organisation The Republic, where a major chunk of the work they do is related to volunteering towards various causes. Students have also realised that taking part in volunteer work gives an automatic boost to the status of their CVs.
With avenues like Volunteer in Dubai, The Protect Your Mom (PYM) Campaign, Karama Kanteen and few other organisations, there is a definite rise in the numbers of youth showing interest in volunteer work.
Twenty-one-year old Upasana Bhatia, an accountancy student of American University of Sharjah, was born and raised in the UAE. “I have been volunteering for two years now and it has changed my life. I realised very early in my university days that students here grow up in luxury as compared to their counterparts in other parts of the world,” said Bhatia. She added that one of the main reasons for her to become an active member of The Republic is because she wanted to network with different people and give back to society.
Sub-groups within The Republic organise events for people in need. The Special Family Support Group (SFS) organises an entire day of activities with special needs people while Tawa’iya provides food to workers in various camps across Dubai. Blood donation camps, diabetes awareness camps, paper recycling drives and marathons to raise awareness for cancer patients are just a few examples.
Students also think that volunteering is a great add-on to the CV. “Today, everybody has good grades, but what stands out is what you have been giving back to the community. Several big companies now have an active CSR programme and when companies realise that they can do with someone who understands the corporate culture of the company, there is a good chance you are hired immediately,” said Bhatia.
Founder of zero-cost breast cancer awareness campaign, Protect Your Mom (PYM), Premi Mathew said: “There is a definite increase in interest towards volunteering among members of the youth. Students are more interested in volunteering now as compared to a few years back,” said Mathew.
Student of Middlesex University Shaikh Saleh (19) said: “When I was at school, I used to be a shy kid. Volunteering has helped me build up my confidence. As part of the Tawa’iya campaign, I distributed food to workers and the smile on their faces as they received the packages made all the work worthwhile.”
Ahmad Hasan (20), a student of Bits Pilani, Dubai said: “Students here are considered spoilt and they take things for granted. Personally, when I started volunteering, I was looking for something different. You develop a better personality while volunteering, and see things in a more realistic way.”
School students like Simran Vedvyas, 13, from The Millennium School said she likes to do volunteer work because she has a strong desire to live in a peaceful, sustainable, and just world.