Watch: Separated by Covid, UAE families reunited in emotional campaign
The heartwarming initiative was the result of a competition organised by Etisalat last year.
Emotions ran high during a surprise reunion arranged between five UAE residents and their loved ones who were unable to meet for over a year due to the raging Covid pandemic.
The heartwarming initiative was the result of a Facebook competition organised by telecom operator Etisalat in November last year, where people were asked to tag loved ones they missed the most for a chance to gift them the latest 5G smartphone.
Capturing the tales of tearful family reunions, a video released by Etisalat shows five lucky winners invited to a studio for a 'video call' with their loved ones. Little did they know that their family members had been flown down to the UAE two days before the planned shoot.
At first, each winner was connected via video call to their loved ones, who played along and thanked them for their new phone — only for a sliding door in the studio to open and reveal them in person.
Marie Cristina Domingo, 46, a Filipina office administrator in Dubai, and her husband Anthony tagged their 21-year-old daughter Maria Erin, a university student in Laguna, whom they had not seen for more than two years. Due to the pandemic, they were unsure when they'd be able to plan a trip home next.
Tears of joy and tight hugs were exchanged as Anthony and Marie saw their daughter suddenly emerge before them.
Nepali national Krishna Shrestha, 35, a sales attendant at a petrol station in Ajman, joined the competition in the hopes of winning a smartphone for his wife and making their wedding anniversary extra special. Little did he know that his wife Rina and her brother Aakash arrived at Dubai airport from Nepal two days prior to the surprise reunion.
Krishna was in complete disbelief when he saw his wife step out from behind the sliding panel. “I’ve not seen her for almost one and a half years,” he said. “I’m so happy.”
Another emotional reunion took place between Hala Hassan, a 24-year-old homemaker in Abu Dhabi, who tagged her sister Reham to win the smartphone.
To her surprise, Reham, a 31-year-old teacher in Egypt, along with their 65-year-old mother Sameeha Salem Ali, were both flown in to Abu Dhabi to surprise Hala.
Choking with emotion, Hala said: “I hadn’t seen my mother and sister for over a year… and was unable to even attend my sister Reham’s wedding last year due to Covid-related travel restrictions.
For another resident Carmela dela Cruz, a 27-year-old nanny in Sharjah, Etisalat went an extra mile to reunite her with her family in the Philippines. Since her 54-year-old father could not travel to the UAE due to his age and health, Carmela was given an airline ticket so she could hand over the phone she had won in the competition to her father in May.
Unable to hold back her tears, Carmela thanked the organisers profusely. “This is so big," she said, trying to smile through her tears after a video call with her parents and cousin. "My family will be happy because I’m going home. I can’t imagine this is happening to me now. I’m so excited because I had not seen my family for almost two years.”
Henna Bhojwani, 47, a homemaker in Dubai, tagged her brother Rajesh Lalwani, a 43-year-old overseas recruitment consultant in India when she entered the competition. “It’s all because of you that I won this prize,” said Rajesh, who flew in from Delhi along with his wife Sneha.
“Oh my God!” Henna shrieked in surprise as the siblings embraced with hugs and tears after more than a year and a half apart. “For me, everything has been so overwhelming, so emotional, I just don’t know how to thank Etisalat,” she said.
The winners were also given a week-long hotel stay, as well as a fun day out at Dubai Parks and Resorts with all Covid-19 precautions duly observed.
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