Dubai executives reach out to refugees in Greece
One of the executives hugs arefugee. - Supplied photo
Dubai - The six employees are all senior managers and executives.
A group of Dubai-based executives recently set time from their busy schedules to step out of the office and head to the Greek island of Lesbos to take part in relief efforts for the thousands of refugees transitting through the area.
The 1,632sq km island of Lesbos in the north-eastern Aegean has been one of the primary entry points for refugees seeking access to Europe. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have landed there before heading to the Greek mainland and on through the Balkans.
The six employees, all senior managers and executives from the Middle East offices of professional service provider Ernst and Young, are participants in a leadership initiative called Leap (Leadership Excellence and Acceleration Programme).
"With the global humanitarian crisis taking headline attention, we felt the urge to divert our attention to the refugee crisis in Greece," said Sakib Rehman, Senior Manager, Advisory. "The crisis resonated with us the most where we all felt that we needed to focus our attention, especially since the refugees were originating from the Middle East."
Once in Lesbos, the team headed to Moria, a transit camp for refugees arriving from Turkey to Greece via the Aegean Sea. The group was primarily put to work helping translate - between them they speak Arabic, Urdu, Farsi, Spanish, Italian and English - to help convey the location of registration and food distribution centres and resting places.
"A majority of refugees were thankful to have someone who understood them and was able to communicate with them," said another senior manager volunteer, Lara ElKhayat. "This was something that touched all of us and we were encouraged and motivated by even the smallest of small tasks as we thought would help someone that really needs it in some shape or form."
Senior manager Sam Foroutani said the group found many of the refugees to be suffering after their difficult journey from their war-torn countries of origin.
"All of the refugees we met from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan had one thing in common - they all just wanted to live," he said.
Sakib Rehman noted that UAE residents interested in helping have many ways of doing so.
"If you're an Arabic, Kurdish or Farsi speaker try and make your way to Lesvos, it is absolutely an experience of a life time," he said. "If in case you can't make it you should try assist remotely. We are keen on hearing from volunteers and happy to guide them," he added.
Mark Stanley, Director of EY Advisory, said that he is already planning to return to see what else he can do. "There are still so many people in desperate need of help."