UAE-based teens learn how rewarding giving is
In the Year of Giving, they found it ideal to bring smiles to patients at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC).
Volunteering: That was the first idea that came to the minds of three young students in the Capital who wanted to help the needy people during their school holidays.
In the Year of Giving, they found it ideal to bring smiles to patients at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC), one of Abu Dhabi Health Services' facilities.
The trio - Ahmed Haweel, 18, Ifraz Ahsan, 17, and Tanushree Unakal, 17 - firmly believe that spreading positive energy will help ease the dullness patients experience during their stay in the hospitals.
"We visit patients around the hospital and try to make them feel as happy as possible, that is our goal," said Ahmed Haweel, a student at the British School - Al Khubairat, aiming for a future in medicine.
He said he often spends his time playing games with children, who unfortunately, made the hospital their home. Haweel believes any form of interaction, conversation, reading and games, will help take the little ones' minds off their own struggles, even if it is just for a minute, or two.
"We try to make the patients feel that they are just like us, they are equal to us, despite their pain."
He said that one patient in dialysis will forever resonate in his mind.
"The little boy touched my heart in a way I've never felt before, and despite having down syndrome and in dialysis, he continued to hold a bright smile, especially when we played bingo."
"Letting him win that game was definitely worth it. It was a rewarding feeling putting a smile on his face."
Haweel's advise for other young students who are unsure what to do with their spare time outside of school hours, is to simply "give volunteering a try."
"Volunteering of any kind is a good deed. If we are physically, mentally and socially capable of helping those in need, then we simply should do just that."
Ifraz Ahsan, who is studying science at Adnoc Schools, and hoping to one day become a genetic engineer, said volunteering has given him a deeper appreciation for life.
"I not only appreciate my life and health more after becoming a volunteer, but the hours of work has allowed me to appreciate my own father's hard work."
"I also developed a new respect for money, especially after working eight hours a day, which gave me an incentive to go to college," said Ahsan, who is helping take care of a whopping number of one million files.
"There are 150 new patients each day, which we need to create files for. The hospital is a great place to give a helping hand."
Tanushree Unakal, a science student at Abu Dhabi Indian school, aiming to become an engineer, said she joined volunteering because she knew it will be fulfilling.
"It can be daunting at times, but once you go home, you are filled with empathy and you are magnificently happy."
She said she spends a majority of her time visiting youngsters suffering from cancer in the oncology ward, cheering them up, whether it is through board games, reading, or painting.
"I met a little boy named Ali, and although he doesn't speak English, nor do I speak Arabic, we can still communicate beautifully, beyond any language."
"I resonated with Ali, and if I don't visit him for just one day, he will go around asking the nurses about me."
Unakal said the youngsters should join hands and help struggling communities through volunteering.
"When you work in a hospital and see how fragile life is, you begin to respect life at a very high level. Volunteering is for the sake of humanity."
Volunteering is a way of life
The time has come to an end for the young students who worked tirelessly, caring for sick patients in the UAE Capital during their school holidays. However, their hard work will forever be appreciated by those who continue to work at the hospital.
Fatima Al Hammadi, training and career development manager, Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC), said volunteering is not just a job that one should take part in, but it should be a way of life, because it helps elevate one's own experience and perspective of life itself.
She said volunteers come from different age groups, backgrounds, ethnicities and occupations. Yet all have one goal - To help those in need.
"Since we started the volunteering programme, we have had 3,000 volunteers, and at the moment we have 200."
"We have a high demand from students, as well as organisations from public and private sectors and even CEOs to volunteer."
"Volunteering in health sector is a dynamic work environment, every day there are new lessons to learn."
She highlighted that volunteering works hand-in-hand with the Year of Giving, the Year of Reading and the Year of Tolerance, because it teaches all the above.
Badria Al Zaabi, senior volunteer programme officer, SKMC, said volunteers often have different reasons as to why they choose to spend their free time caring for the sick.
"Activities are endless from data filing to patient activities and teaching classes."
She said the youngest volunteers the hospital received were 16, while the oldest was 75, however, women between the ages of 16 and 23 are the most common. "Volunteers gain knowledge and experience, which is priceless, and at the same time, they are giving back to the community."
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