Saturday, January 7, 2012

Women in demanding professional careers find spare time for charity.

Excited shrieks and loud cheers filled the air as enthusiastic fans watched the last minutes of a competitive football game.

But, it wasn't your typical match. It was being played by Emirati girls in a stadium full of girls in their 20s, as part of a fund-raising tournament, at a private venue in Abu Dhabi, a few weeks' ago.

Eleven Emirati girls combined their love of sport with the desire to help and created ‘3onkum', which translates into ‘your kind support'. It is a young initiative launched about two months ago. The charity football tournament in Abu Dhabi was the first event organised by them.

They managed to raise Dh270,000, which will be later donated to Emirati families in need around the UAE, through the Red Crescent.

The group of young women based in the capital include a doctor, a lawyer, a public relations officer, an IT specialist and an event manager, all of whom have demanding day jobs. They spend their evenings managing 3onkum.

Azza Al Ka'abi, a 23-year-old marketing officer and one of the group members, explained: "After organising football tournaments [for Emirati women] for five years in a row and seeing the surprisingly high demand from more than 20 teams who have expressed their interest in participating each year, we decided to use this event and others to contribute something to society." They came up with the idea and spread the word among Emirati women through word of mouth, Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry.

Shaikha Al Ka'abi, an IT specialist and 28-year-old leader of the group, said: "We were amazed by the positive response that we got as soon as we announced the idea. A huge number of teams who wanted to play and girls who volunteered to help manage the event got in touch with us."

To their surprise, they were also contacted by girls who ran home businesses and offered to set up vendor stands on the event day, sell their goods, services and donate the profits to the cause.

They were approached by young Emirati doctors, who offered to attend and run basic eye, blood pressure and diabetes tests for guests and also contribute their profits to charity.

Afra Al Marar, a 24-year-old PR officer and member of 3onkum, said: "Girls in the community were extremely proactive."

No success comes without hard work though. Before the tournament, for two months, the girls met three evenings a week and stayed up late planning, organising and making decisions. "We kept things organised by dividing tasks, and creating a database for all the players, volunteers, business owners and doctors," Shaikha Al Ka'abi said.

The success of the tournament has not only been a relief after the time and effort the girls have put in it but has also given them a strong push to do more.

In the near future, they have plans for different sporting tournaments, open days for girls with family businesses, bake sales, bazaars and other charity events, which girls with varying talents and interests could get a chance to be part of and support.
3onkum are soon to launch their website.

"There is no limit to what you can do and what you can give. When you have an idea, go out there and try it. You have nothing to lose, Shaikha added.

3onkum members
            Fatima Al Kaabi
            Shaikha Al Kaabi
            Azza Al Kaabi
            Hamda Al Hamli
            Mediya Al Muhairbi
            Hamda Al Qubaisi
            Fatima Al Qubaisi
            Afra Al Marar
            Fatima Al Muhairi
            Fatima Al Qubaisi
            Nadia Al Shaikh

Follow them on twitter: @3ownkum