Covid-19: UAE women use Facebook to throw lifelines to families in need Filed on July 9, 2021




The UAE Pay it Forward group, started by an expat mother to share pre-loved baby items, is a now a community of 14,000 members who help the needy

What started as a small group of 10 mothers on Facebook to share pre-loved baby items has now grown into a burgeoning community of over 14,000 members. The mission of this women-only group, UAE Pay it Forward, is to help women and families in need essentially with preloved stuff related to children. But over the last few months, this group has also thrown a lifeline to several families who have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I came to the UAE last year on visit visa with my three kids, aged 10, 4 and 2 years. My husband had just secured a job and we were hoping to get a residence visa. However, within a few months there was lockdown, and my husband lost his job. Since then, he has been taking up odd jobs, but we were finding it hard to manage by ourselves. We moved to a tiny studio apartment with just one single bed. There was no money to furnish it. My elder one used to sleep on the floor. Then a friend introduced me to the group, and I shared my predicament. A group member, Victoria Lewis, read my post and sent us a sofa cum bed from Dubai. Later on, other members who were looking to donate their items sent us more furniture and groceries. I now have gas stove, washing machine, dishes, bed, and all these were donated to us by various kind women in the group. I am so grateful for the support we are receiving. I hope to help others through this group like I have been helped,” said Aziza Amir Hussain, a Bangladeshi national. “I hope my husband gets a stable job so that I can resume schooling for my eldest one.”

Ijeoma Silas, a Nigerian, too has experienced similar generosity. She joined this group in April this year when she was unable to feed her six-month-old son well. “I am a single mum in the UAE, and I don’t have a source of income now. A friend introduced me to this group and when I shared my story with them, many came forward to help with baby food, clothes, toys, etc. They ask about my wellbeing and seem genuinely concerned. I am grateful for the support I have from thousands of strangers who are no less than angels for me.”

The UAE Pay it Forward group was originally called Free Baby Items and was founded by Kavita Faiz and her friend Mehsoon Kazi in 2016.

“The group has evolved in the last five years,” said Faiz. “I had my first child in 2015 and like any first-time parent we bought a lot of toys, clothes, and gifts for him. In one year, most of the stuff was either not much used or not needed anymore. I didn’t want to discard my son’s clothes, toys, and unused formula milk cans. There was an option of selling on Dubizzle, but I didn’t want to make profit from such things. So, I decided to give them away for free to other mothers and made a group on Facebook with my a few of my friends to facilitate donation of such stuff,” she added.

Over the years, the group has grown and flourished. “The mission statement changed from free stuff to spreading kindness by connecting people who are willing to donate their belongings. Over the last few years, the group and its members have been able to help so many families and children,” said Faiz, an aircraft engineer, who came to Dubai in 2011. She manages this FB account with a team of fellow women, namely Mehsoon Kazi, Diana Dsouza, Anida Naufal, Erica Lunsman, Victoria Myers, Sufana Hassan and Victoria Van Der Auwera.

“The UAE is a beautiful country. People here want to help but sometimes they are not sure of how to go about this. I am glad our small initiative is building into a platform to spread kindness. We do not accept cash and do not offer monetary help. The Facebook group is a platform to women who wish to donate or seek help by accepting preloved stuff,” she said.

The group with its vast membership has also started offering free webinars and sessions on legal aid, yoga, career counselling, etc. “The sole idea is to help each other. We have so many women members of this group who are engaged in different professions. There are teachers, doctors, lawyers, professors, and I am so glad they all want to help. We often organise sessions to help groupmates. The latest one, for instance, offered free legal advice on financial matters. The session was conducted by a lawyer,” Faiz added.


Suneeti Ahuja Kohli

Suneeti Ahuja-Kohli has been in Dubai long enough to call it her spiritual home. She loves to travel but plans to settle down in Koi Samui, Thailand eventually to spend her sunset years by the sea. For now, she writes frequently on personal finance, retirement planning, business news and features, health and almost anything assigned by her editor. Her sojourns can be followed on instagram (suneetiahujakohli), news and views on Twitter @suneetiahuja, and for the rest, there’s a Facebook account.

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