From Dh3 meals for labourers to fund for Pakistan flood victims: How UAE businessmen are giving back to society

Khaleej Times speaks to three entrepreneurs who are now giving back to the society that made them who they are


Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Sun 2 Oct 2022, 2:51 PM

Last updated: Mon 3 Oct 2022, 4:17 PM

A restaurant that that gives meals for just Dh3 for labourers. An orphanage and football team that helps keep children off the street. A fund that offers relief to Pakistani flood victims. These are among the various philanthropic initiatives undertaken by businessmen and residents in the UAE. Khaleej Times speaks to three entrepreneurs who are now giving back to the society that made them who they are.

Feeding labourers in the UAE

Ayesha Khan arrived in the UAE in 2006 to work with a premiere telecommunications company as an IT infrastructure auditor. Over the next 12 years, as she worked with several government entities and steadily climbed the corporate ladder, she began to cook to unwind. When she began to distribute her dishes to the workers and cleaners in her office, she realized that they were saving precious dirhams which they invested in improving their family's lives.

Moved by her impact, she decided to quit her job and turned to cooking low-cost meals full time. She sold her properties to turn into a social entrepreneur and set up a food ATM to provide low-cost meals to blue collar workers. For Dh3, she serves up a full meal that includes a main course, a side and dessert with a bottle of water.

However, she admits that her path has been strewn with challenges. “From the Greens, I moved my accommodation into a labour camp area in Ajman,” she said. “I was physically attacked; my children lost a year of schooling because I couldn’t pay their fees and I went through more difficulties than I could have ever imagined.”

However, she is thankful for her achievements and support. The UAE government provides her with some benefits to reduce costs whereas, wholesalers give her raw materials at low prices so that she can continue running her business. Last year, she set a Guinness World Record by feeding 50,000 people in 8 hours.

Earlier this year. she was elected to the Board of Directors of UN Global Compact UAE at United Nations Global Compact. Currently, she is in the process of expanding her business.

“I hope to have at least one facility in every emirate to provide food security to several more lower-income people,” she said.

Keeping kids healthy and safe

Swiss national Jeffrey Henseler was not thrilled to learn that his aunt had gifted him an opportunity to volunteer at an orphanage in South Africa for his 16th birthday. However, he now feels otherwise. “From day one, I was smitten by the children,” he said. “They came from terrible backgrounds, but they were so full of love. I left the place three weeks later with my heart full.” During this time, he also met with his Swiss counterpart Gina Orsatti, who was a social worker.

At 21, when he moved to Dubai, Jeffrey knew that he wanted to go back to do something for the struggling children across Africa. Later, when he started his company Passport Legacy and was financially stable, he decided it was time to make good on his resolve.

He reconnected with Gina, who had teamed up with Mozambique national Pedro Nhamirre to start the Goodwill Foundation in Vilankulo, Mozambique. Together, the three of them decided to build an orphanage. “We now have a structure that can take in at least 40 children, complete with administrative staff, chefs and security officers” he said.

According to Jeffrey, most of the work by Goodwill Foundation involves taking children off the streets and ensuring they have better lives. “In addition to the orphanage for children, Goodwill also has a football team for teenagers,” he said. “Sport is a very good way to ensure that youngsters don’t get into a life of crime and drugs.”

Helping Pakistani Flood Victims

Pakistani entrepreneur Naveed Ahmad Mohd Anwar first arrived in Dubai in 2004 to work as a helper at an auto service workshop with a salary of Dh600. He quit the company in 2015 to set up his own business Super Fix Group of Auto Centres.

After months of perseverance, he was finally able to get a space for his auto business at a service station of Adnoc. That was the turning point of his life. “My team and I worked 14-hour days every day for eight months,” he said. His hard work paid off and he was eventually able to expand. Today he has 15 branches all over the UAE and was recently granted the Golden Visa.

From the first day, his focus has been to give back to society. Last month, he built an air conditioned waiting shed for a school in Al Ain where students waited in the harsh sun for pick up. “It was hard to watch students as young as 3 and 4 waiting for their parents in the heat during the summer,” he said.

In addition to supporting educational, medical and daily necessities of several families, Naveed has been actively helping in the flood relief activities in Pakistan. “There are thousands who still have not been able to get the help they need,” he said. “I am working with several organizations who are on the ground to make sure that aid reaches the right people.”


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