Dubai resident's LinkedIn post turns into full-fledged donation drive
With the help of friends, Chilean expat Esteban Romero delivered 750kg of non-perishable food supplies across the emirates earlier this week
It used to be that, in times of trouble, you could expect to fall back on your circle of family and friends for support. But in the age of Covid-19, that social expectation has had to be redefined. Now, everyone you could fall back on is also in trouble, and unlikely to want to take on your woes - simply because they've got enough of their own.
It's such a ray of sunshine, therefore, to come across the outliers, those going against the grain, to bring hope to the desperate and needy - people like Dubai resident Esteban Romero.
The Chilean expat recently put up a post on LinkedIn, asking anyone who was not receiving an income and who'd run out of food, to get in touch with him. "Please don't let your kids go to sleep with an empty stomach," read the post. "I'm more than happy to share whatever I can. I will drop and go. No one has to know. I'm here to help."
The ensuing response has floored him, with the 38-year-old receiving an average of 60-70 requests for help a day. Together with his wife and a few friends, Esteban has been working hard over the last week to sort through the requests, gather details, and work out the logistics. On Saturday, the group deployed themselves across Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman, eventually distributing 750 kg of non-perishable food supplies.
According to Esteban, a "second, larger wave" of donations is on the way - and an update, posted on the networking platform, assured those who'd contacted him that he does not intend to "leave anyone behind". His post has garnered nearly 16,500 likes and 1,500 comments so far, with some offers of support with logistics and provisions as well. However, the group used only their own resources for the recent donation drive. "We didn't want to bother anyone else, but now that the requests are piling up, we may consider taking people up on their offers. We're not accepting monetary donations of any kind though," he adds.
Going by the demographics of those who've reached out to him, Esteban has been trying to organise food supplies accordingly. "I'm in the food and beverage industry, so I know what people from different countries like to eat. We've been trying to do more rice, lentils and legumes. food that is high in carbs, because energy will be so important right now. We also put in some fruits and chocolates for the ones with kids in the house."
As someone who worked as a volunteer fireman several years ago, Esteban is not new to "sad stories". The people he's been helping over the course of the last week, however, have really touched his heart. Is he worried about anyone taking advantage of his generosity? "It's hard to say, to be honest," he replies, after a pause. "We can't really tell who's really in need by appearances alone, which can be deceiving. You can live in a nice house but have no food on the table for the kids. So, I find it's better not to judge. That's not my job."
His motivation to 'give' comes from his father. "He always used to say there's never shortage of bread for an extra mouth," says Esteban. "He had a tradition of preparing food and distributing it on the streets on Sundays. It would always make him late for lunch at home and mama would be furious. But he did that till the very end, and that's the example I'm trying to follow for my own son."
Esteban says all he hopes is that people will pay the kindness forward, once they get to a better place. As he kept reiterating only half-jokingly throughout our conversation, "We're just a bunch of crazy people trying to do some good."