Combating coronavirus: Meet the youngest volunteer at Dubai's Covid-19 isolation centre
Dubai - Her father Dr Riyas Jamaluddin has been volunteering at the facility for the past two months.
At an age where many are busy with school assignments and online classes, 17-year-old Zahra Riyas is busy lending a hand at a Covid-19 isolation facility in Dubai. Studying in Year 13 at Dubai Scholars Pvt School, Zahra is the youngest volunteer at Al Warsan Covid isolation centre, operating under the Dubai Health Authority (DHA).
Her father Dr Riyas Jamaluddin has been volunteering at the facility for the past two months and now, the father-daughter duo is working together to serve Covid-19 patients. Although Zahra does not interact with the patients, she plays an integral role at the facility's operations control unit maintaining the patient census - monitoring patient details, beds available, test swabs done or required, discharge protocols etc - and sends reports to the Dubai Command Centre of the DHA.
"I had been applying for volunteering opportunities with the DHA since March but wasn't allowed because of my age. When my dad put in a word for me, I got a call from the DHA officials who told me about the dangers and precautions. I convinced them that I would take all precautions and that my father was also at the same facility," said Zahra.
"I am an aspiring doctor and aim to pursue medicine where I will have to face these situations, so might as well start now. It is scary but I will not let fear control my choices. I understand it is dangerous, but if all of us give in, there won't be anyone to fight this disease on the frontlines," she added.
Zahra is cautious to take all precautions such as wearing a mask and a double layer of gloves at all times and also sanitising her hands and belongings time and again. Although she is at the facility every day from 9am to 4pm, she doesn't miss her online classes as she believes a strong education foundation is important to achieve higher goals and serve humanity. "Luckily my school e-classes schedule is flexible, which is why I am able to volunteer. My online classes are either held altogether in the morning or in the afternoon and go on for a maximum of three hours. So I do them at home in the morning and the come to the facility or I take the classes while at work in the facility," said Zahra.
The teenager had previously volunteered for blood donation initiatives and para-athletic competitions. "Volunteering gives me the opportunity to help change people's lives. It gives me the satisfaction of playing my role by helping people in need. It gives me happiness and is my way of giving back to my community while developing social skills and gaining valuable work experience," said Zahra.
Her proud father Dr Riyas added: "I am grateful to the DHA and the Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC) for giving me and my daughter this opportunity to serve the UAE. We have lived in the UAE for most of our lives and this country has given us a good life so why not give back in the time of need. My father has also been a social worker and runs a school - Crescent English School - which has the lowest fee structure and we all have learnt from him. This is the time the UAE needs us so I didn't stop my daughter because any gesture, big or small, can make a difference. It's good we train our children to volunteer selflessly from a young age and they will grow up to be responsible and loving human beings."
Dr Riyas is a dentist with a private dental clinic but left his clinic under the supervision of his brother and is now volunteering full time at the Al Warsan isolation facility.