Dubai mums team up to help workers eat healthy

Dubai: A group of Dubai mothers kicked off a five-week campaign with the welfare of workers at its heart. The women seek to ensure that fruits and vegetables are an integral part of the diet for workers.

Initiated by Dubai resident and stay-at-home mum Stephanie Sutherland from the United States, the ‘Free healthy food Friday’s’ campaign is organised by the ‘Dubai Mums Helping Hands’ group on social media.

As part of the campaign, which started on October 9, mothers, children, and families from different Dubai communities have been visiting labour accommodations every Friday distributing grocery bags containing fruits and vegetables to workers.

Sutherland, the campaign founder, highlighted the thought behind the initiative. “We went straight to the labour camps and asked the workers what they needed — and we found that they have very unbalanced diets, little nutrition, and were mainly eating rice, bread, and dal [lentils],” said Sutherland.

After visiting labour accommodations, members of the group found that the average salary of workers ranged from Dh900-Dh1,000, with food itself making for a monthly expense of Dh300 for many.

The women swung into action, collecting and distributing over 260 grocery bags of fruits and vegetables on the very first day of the campaign.

Sutherland explained that a maximum of 60 volunteers can sign up every Friday to take part in the distribution of fruits and vegetables to workers at labour accommodations. “Those who are not able to make it on the bus ride and still want to contribute can drop off their bags the night before. Each volunteer should donate a minimum of 10 bags,” she said.

Trips to labour accommodations in Al Qouz will be organised every Friday at 7:30am until November 6. During the bus ride, Sutherland briefs volunteers about the conditions of workers living in labour accommodations.

Stay-at-home mum Erin Kaplan, 39, also from the United States, took part in the first such trip along with her nine-year-old son and five-year-old daughter. “The purpose of bringing my children along is to open their eyes to the other side of Dubai. They are being raised in a bubble of easiness, and cleanliness, and it’s important for them to see that not everyone lives that way,” said Kaplan.

She pointed out that while it might have been a small gesture to participate, helping out represented a lot more to her children. “I find that people are eager to volunteer in a way where they can involve their families. This type of campaign opens our eyes and reminds us that workers are also human beings who have come from different countries and are leaving their families behind.”

Working mother Genine Thana, 34, from the United Kingdom is another volunteer who has been actively participating in the campaign with her three-year-old son and five-year-old daughter. On a trip to the supermarket with her children to buy the fruits and vegetables, Thana said her family was looking forward to being part of the experience soon.

“It’s really important to give something back to people who don’t have much, and to involve the children,” said Thana, who heard about the campaign through the Dubai mums helping hands Facebook page.

With the cause gaining more attention on social media, Sutherland said that over 600 bagfuls of fruits and vegetables are expected to be donated in time for next Friday’s distribution drive. The ongoing campaign is one of many that have been launched by the ‘Dubai mums helping hand’ group on Facebook.

Sutherland created the group after a small initiative to hand out food bags to tram workers in Jumeirah Beach Residence last year started off with the distribution of 200 bags but donations soon increased to 3,600 bags. She pointed out that a platform to connect people in the community is needed in order to carry out charity events. “We aim to get people to join our group and take part in our projects to show people that they can do it with us, but they don’t really need us to do it. The projects are an introduction to show that anyone can go up to a labour worker and say here’s a bag of groceries,” said Sutherland.