Expo 2020 Dubai

Expo 2020 Dubai: Dentist, space engineer among thousands of volunteers

Dhanusha Gokulan (Principal Correspondent)/Dubai
dhanusha@khaleejtimes.com Filed on October 11, 2021
File photo

More than 30,000 people of 135 nationalities — aged between 18 and 79 — are volunteering at Expo 2020

Omar AlRaeesi works full time as a systems engineer at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC). However, despite having a challenging job, he spends all his free time volunteering at Expo 2020 Dubai.

AlRaeesi is not alone. Thousands of UAE professionals like him have been passionately taking time out of their hectic schedules to work at the world’s greatest show.

More than 30,000 people of 135 nationalities — aged between 18 and 79 — are volunteering at Expo 2020. Many are doctors, engineers, dentists and lawyers, among others.

Omar AlRaeesi, systems engineer at MBRSC

(Works with the office of Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and director-general of Expo 2020 Dubai)

Expo 2020 Dubai: Dentist, space engineer among thousands of volunteers (https://www.khaleejtimes.com//assets/png/KT307151011.PNG)

“Having a full-time job and volunteering at the Expo can be challenging. However, I make it work. I work on weekend shifts here at the Expo, and on days when there is no stress at work, I come here to volunteer,” said AlRaeesi, who began his career at the MBRSC by working on the KhalifaSat project. The Emirati is now working on the MBZ-SAT satellite.

Since the end of September, the space engineer has been helping out the Expo team for about three to four times a week.

He works closely with the office of the Expo’s director-general. “We create protocols for VIPs and the embassies,” AlRaeesi said.

His first exposure to volunteering was in 2013 at a science festival in Abu Dhabi and some events at his university.

“This is what I love doing during my free time. Basically, at the Expo, you have people coming here from all over the world, and this is a once-in-lifetime event. Everyone who comes here experiences child-like wonder. It’s like walking into a dream. I love being here,” he said.

Dr Ahmed Sarhan, GP clinician and emergency dentist, Dental Studio

(Volunteers at the Expo welcome committee)

Expo 2020 Dubai: Dentist, space engineer among thousands of volunteers (https://www.khaleejtimes.com//assets/png/KT307161011.PNG)

The Expo work is Dr Sarhan’s first volunteering experience and he applied for it back in October 2018.

“I saw the opportunities online and thought that I wanted to make history. It is time to give back to the country that has given me so much,” said Dr Sarhan, an Egyptian national who moved to the UAE in the early 90s.

At the Expo, he guides people as soon as they arrive. “I try and give everyone a warm welcome. I help them with the installation of the Expo app and teach them how to use it,” he said.

As an emergency dentist, Dr Sarhan is on call 24/7. “My work hours are from 9am to 7-8pm on some days. I spend a lot of time on the road,” he added.

Despite his hectic schedule, he finds no problem working at the Expo site.

“When you are passionate about something, you can always find the time for it. When I began volunteering here, this entire area was barren. I would point at the space where Al Wasl Dome now stands and tell the new volunteers that this is where Al Wasl Plaza will be. The place that we imagined then has now become a beautiful reality,” Dr Sarhan said.

Alma Dizdarevic, digital product manager for a start-up

(Volunteers as a team leader for site operations at the Mobility Pavilion)

Dizdarevic began volunteering for the mega event in 2019 — after seeing her husband Dr Sarhan’s passion for it.

She will begin her official journey as an Expo volunteer in December; however, she has already assisted in a number of tasks previously.

She worked at the Expo House of Volunteers, helping the team recruit new volunteers. “I also volunteered at the pre-Expo events,” explained the expat from Bosnia and Herzegovina. She came to the UAE on October 31, 2015.

“I came here initially intending to stay for six months. My sister was here, and she spoke to me about a job at a Bosnian restaurant at Global Village. I was pursuing my studies back home at that time as well,” she added.

The more time Dizdarevic spent in the UAE, the more she felt at home.

“I liked it here, and I saw myself making the UAE my home,” she said.

After marrying Sarhan, she spent two to three years studying and flying to Bosnia and back.

“That’s when Ahmed began working with the Expo. I saw that he was so passionate about it, and I had to see things for myself,” she Dizdarevic.



Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for over ten years. For Khaleej Times, she covers NRI affairs, civil aviation, and immigration issues among other things. She completed her BA in Journalism, Economics and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008 and is currently pursuing her MA in Leadership and Innovation in Contemporary Media at the American University in Dubai. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves food, and is mom to an over-enthusiastic Labrador retriever. Tweet at her @shootsprintrite.

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