Dubai: This expat donates profits worth Dh150,000 to children's charities every month

The profits from her thrift shop help fund projects in as far as Malawi, Uganda, the Philippines, Peru, Nepal, Lebanon and Palestine

By Harriet Shephard

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Published: Fri 1 Mar 2024, 9:14 PM

Last updated: Sun 3 Mar 2024, 8:48 PM

Many people move to Dubai hoping to make their fortunes and gain a life full of luxuries. But Canadian Jennifer Sault’s ambitions are far more selfless.

A passionate humanitarian with a master's degree in Nonprofit Leadership and Philanthropy, Sault, 35, discovered her passion for charity work when she was just 13 years old.

Jennifer Sault
Jennifer Sault

Growing up in Winnipeg, Canada, she was inspired by her Filipino school mates to join a fundraising scheme to build and sustain a daycare centre in the Philippines. This sparked a desire in her to do more to help. After high school, she spent a year volunteering at a children’s home in Nepal. Sadly, it wasn’t an entirely positive experience.

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“The owner ran it like a business with four kids to a bed. He didn’t feed them well either. It was a scam and a horrible situation. At that time, I couldn't do anything for those kids, even though I wished I could. When I went back a few years later I found out that the owner had sold the kids into sex trafficking or slave labour,” Sault shares.

“It made me determined to do everything in my power to protect other children from such a fate. That's what fuels my passion and motivates me to raise as much money as I can every single day.”

'Thrift for Good'

After moving to Dubai in 2012, she joined the team at Gulf for Good, a non-profit organisation that funds children’s charity projects across the world. It was here that she got the idea to launch charity shop chain Thrift for Good.

“I realised there was a desperate need for more charitable thrift shops in Dubai and ways for people to recycle their old clothes,” says Sault, adding: “We would get calls almost every single day from people who wanted to give their clothing away. Gulf for Good didn’t have the capacity to handle the contributions, so some friends and I started collecting them and selling them at markets. At one point every inch of my home was filled with donated clothes.”

After gaining sponsored storage space from The Box in Dubai, and volunteers provided by Emirates NBD, the first Thrift for Good branch opened at the Golden Mile Galleria on the Palm Jumeirah in 2020. It has since expanded to a second shop in Times Square Centre and a third branch is planned for within the next six months.

Thrift for Good also sells items online — and all profits, roughly Dh150,000 per month — are given directly to Gulf for Good to fund projects as far as Malawi, Uganda, the Philippines, Peru, Nepal, Lebanon and Palestine.

Spanning second-hand clothing, accessories, shoes, bags and books, Sault and her team ensure that every item is of the best possible quality.

“There's a bit of a stigma about buying secondhand in the UAE, so we are committed to making sure that everything in our stores is perfect. We have sponsors who help us repair clothes and remove stains,” says Sault.

Everything is recycled

Anything not suitable for the store is sold at the Dubai Flea Market. Items declared unusable are given to local upcyclers, or to the Kiswa app to be made into carpets and furniture in India.

“Sustainability is hugely important to me. As far as I’m aware we’re the only clothing thrift shop in Dubai that recycles absolutely everything. We help people declutter their homes, live more sustainably, and gain amazing new clothes for about a seventh of the original cost,” Sault says.

“Thrifting lets you find unique items that no one else has and feel the satisfaction of saving your clothes from landfill. Visiting our stores is not a normal shopping experience — it allows you to be part of something bigger. It's sustainable and you're helping kids around the world. It's a win, win situation.

While Thrift for Good has a small, dedicated team, it relies largely on the help of volunteers.

Sault notes: “It takes an enormous amount of time to sort and price all the stock we are given. Along with items to sell we are always looking for extra pairs of hands to help us out.”

As a member of the board and Charity Director for Gulf for Good, Sault is still heavily involved with the organisation’s fundraising adventure challenges, and overseas projects. She has climbed Kilimanjaro with the group, and helped build classrooms for a school in Tanzania.

“Joining Gulf for Good changed my life. It allowed me to travel, get into fitness, and help more children than ever before. When we finished the project in Tanzania, around 2,000 kids and community members came out to cheer, dance and sing for us. It was so overwhelming and beautiful,” she says.

“Another of our recent projects was to buy farmland in Malawi for The Sparkle Foundation. This ensures that the children there have a daily meal, and it allows the parents to make an income by selling any extra produce at market.”

Expanding across the UAE

Sault’s 10-year goal is to expand Thrift for Good across the UAE, and then the rest of the GCC. With sponsorship for a child costing just Dh1,500 for a year, the profits from Thrift for Good support dozens of children each month.

She concludes: “I'm incredibly proud of the work we do. Charity work is not just my passion, it’s my purpose, and I’m so lucky to have made a career out of it. It’s been a whirlwind and such an inspiring journey.”


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