The author lauds the initiative of the government in launching the “Year of Giving” and looks at ways that we can all give back to our community.
2016 was declared as the “Year of Reading” in the UAE, and this resulted in many noteworthy initiatives, as well as a platform for the bookworms of the UAE to be heard and have their time to shine. While these initiatives are hopefully carried on beyond 2016, the UAE government has now moved on to other ambitions, and has declared 2017 to be the “Year of Giving”.
This is another highly commendable and much needed theme, at a time when the world appears to be divided over differences rather than united in the face of adversity. This is especially needed with the current state of our world where social media has provided a platform for people to show off their rank and achievements in life. This is happening globally and the UAE is no exception as materialistic gains are paraded on a day to day basis. The people living here continue to have higher expectations along with the country’s growth and aim for higher standards of living. While it is important to have ambition, we do need to be reminded from time to time that our focus should not only be on our own personal attainment, but that of our collective society and the need to give back to the less fortunate.
This is where the “Year of Giving” comes into play, and why the country’s leaders must have adopted this theme for 2017. To launch this campaign, a retreat was held, similar to last year’s, and participants included cabinet ministers, government officials, and humanitarian leaders were invited to provide their input. The objective of this retreat was to brainstorm ideas towards the implementation of the “Year of Giving” with the goal of building a framework for charity work and creating a culture amongst people to have the desire to give back to their community.
However, it is important to remember that giving does not always have to be monetary or a grand gesture, but can be in simple things such as helping our family members and being kind to our neighbors. It can be about showing respect to people from all walks of life, and not differentiating between those of different ranks. It is about giving a helping hand or smiling to someone who is having a bad day. Another example is the generosity of people that tends to become more visible during the month of Ramadan, where meals are shared with neighbors and the less fortunate. Such acts of charity and kindness need to be spread throughout the year and not only limited to one month.
It is also important to build a culture where volunteer work is a norm for everyone, and schools and companies should put in a framework to support such initiatives. People working long hours in a day may not find the motivation to use their personal time to give back to the community, but with the support of their employers, they could find the time. There are many companies in the UAE that give their employees between one to two days leave for volunteer work through their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. This is something that should be regulated so that every company can offer this time and also the opportunities for employees to volunteer in an area where they see themselves capable of giving back.
The act of giving is not only beneficial to the ones on the receiving end, but also to the individual making that effort. It can bring a sense of purpose and satisfaction to one’s life. It is important for everyone to occasionally take time out of their busy lives and daily routine to contribute to the community, and in turn, appreciate the things they may have taken for granted.
While some may take the “Year of Giving” as an opportunity to showcase their ‘generosity’ on social media for attention, it is important to accept that their good deeds, done for whatever reasons or ulterior motives, could still influence others to follow suit and engage in community work.
We have many volunteering opportunities in the UAE, and the media has shown that countless people have come together in support of these various campaigns over the years. Now with the “Year of Giving” upon us, it is crucial to shed light on these groups and invite even more people to support and partake in these opportunities, until this becomes a habit and a part of who we are.