GE Volunteers in the UAE Help Blue-Collar Workers Stranded by COVID – #GEVTakeMeHome
GE Volunteers in the UAE have done everything from painting classrooms to providing robotics workshops for children to packing Ramadan meal boxes. Now, in the face of COVID-19, volunteers are taking on one of their biggest challenges yet: helping to repatriate workers stranded by the pandemic.
Thousands of blue-collar workers in the UAE and around the region have been im-pacted by the economic fallout of COVID-19. As a result, many have found them-selves without work, housing, healthcare, food or even a way to return to their home countries. Numerous charities and government organizations in the UAE communi-ty are coming together to help care for them, and GE Volunteers have stepped up as well.
GE Volunteers recognized that for many, the best solution is to help those who would like to return home to do so. That’s why they’ve launched the #GEVTakeMe-Home campaign. In just the last few weeks, the initiative has provided tickets for more than 80 men and women, ending a stressful period of uncertainty for them by reuniting them with their families back home. The initiative has supported candi-dates from over 20 cities across Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and India.
The individuals are often the sole or principle breadwinners, and if they are in the UAE unable to work, that means their families back home may be struggling, poten-tially causing a ripple affect across the broader community.
“We could have supported individuals by providing food or other necessities while they remained in the UAE. But without work, they would remain dependent and cannot start to rebuild their lives,” explained Swati Mehta, leader of GE Volunteers UAE, and an active member of the team involved in the #GEVTakeMeHome cam-paign.
“We wanted take some steps more immediately to help those who wanted to return home. The people we have helped range in age and background, but they all have one thing in common: they want to look toward the future and restart their lives,” she added. Other members of the campaign leadership team include Staney Pullolickel, Tarek Al-Jabi, Mohaned Eltayeb, and Melanie Ada.
The response from workers has only added to the volunteers’ commitment. Many of the candidates have reached out after reaching home and have stayed connected with the volunteers. Shahi Wali Ullah, who was repatriated to Pakistan in August, said, “Whoever helped me, may Allah bless and keep the person happy always. Me and my parents will always pray for you all. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Words don’t do justice to the gratitude I feel.”
Volunteers play various roles in the initiative, including speaking to candidates on the phone, meet in person to confirm their needs and help them find a flight, match with a sponsor and ensure they have all documents before their flight home. Meet-ing and talking to the candidates has also been an emotional experience for the GE Volunteers. As volunteer Sabih Zaman recounts, “It has been very rewarding and fulfilling to feel that we are doing something to help less privileged folks. It helps remind me of my blessings.”
To ensure support is going to those who need it most, GE Volunteers partners with non-governmental organizations and volunteer groups with which it has previously collaborated, including SmartLife, UAE Relief Initiatives, and Sahem Volunteers. These organizations identify potential recipients and do a first-level background check. GE Volunteers then do a second check by phone and in person. Most work-ers in the program do not speak English, so GE Volunteers have leveraged their networks to identify people with the necessary language skills to help.
With many workers still requiring help to return home, anyone interested in support-ing the campaign can reach out to GE Volunteers by email at GEV.UAE@ge.com or by DM to @gevuae on Instagram.
Read more about GE Volunteer projects in the UAE and across the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey and Pakistan region.