Expo 2020 Dubai: Meet the youngest and oldest volunteers

The volunteers for the mega event represent the diversity and multiculturalism of Dubai.

When Expo 2020 Dubai opens in October, 30,000 volunteers of 135 nationalities would have finished their training, ready to welcome the world. It’s a once-in-lifetime mission that knows no age limit — with the oldest volunteer at 79 and the youngest at 18.

Mahabir Singhal, 79, didn’t want to miss the chance to be part of the world’s greatest show so when the opportunity to volunteer came up, he “jumped at it”.

“I enjoy meeting other people. In fact, I am the happiest when I am with people. With that spirit, I enjoy being a volunteer. I feel happy to assist other people and give back to the community from where I have gained so much,” Singhal, who has been living in Dubai over the past 44 years, told Khaleej Times.

After retiring from DP World as its director of finance, the Indian expat decided to settle in the emirate. And the moment he learnt about the chance to volunteer at the Expo, he thought “where else can one get an opportunity to be part of a world event right at your home?”

Singhal is no stranger to volunteerism. He used to run a welfare centre for visiting seafarers and managed it for several years. “I have served in several sports clubs committees and currently I in the board of governors at Dubai Heights Academy.”

At the Expo, his duties include greeting and guiding visitors and telling them details about the pavilion assigned to him.

The Expo volunteers were selected from a pool of a whopping 175,000 applicants, exceeding a target of 100,000. All of them are excited to play host and gain experiences of a lifetime.

Emirati teen ready to show Arab hospitality

For 18-year-old Emirati Eissa Alnaamani, volunteering for the Expo is the perfect opportunity to make the world experience the Arab hospitality he had been taught since childhood.

“We treat our guests well and this time, we have many coming from different parts of the world. I want the leaders of the country to know that young people like us are in the forefront of this event and we will make them proud,” said Alnaami, who studies at Sir Bani Yas Secondary School.

He said it is an honour for any Emirati to be involved in “one of the biggest and the most important events that my country will be hosting”.

“I am sure I will gain new experiences and knowledge from it,” he added.

Alnaami said it’s also an opportunity for him to learn from others. “I am taking this volunteering experience as a challenge and use the opportunity to improve my skills that can help me in the future.”

After high school, Alnaami wanted to go to The Royal Military College. “This experience will go a long way in helping me achieve my goal and I am lucky to be born in this country as nothing is impossible in the UAE.”

Team beyond excited

Revathi Ravindranathan Nair is another student volunteer who has grown up in the UAE and is eager to give back to the community.

“I have lived in the UAE from the age of six. Personally, being part of the Expo was the perfect opportunity to contribute to the country that has so graciously housed me and my family all these years,” said the graduating undergrad student of Jain University, Bangalore.

She said she is “beyond excited” to volunteer for the Media Service Teams.

“I cannot wait for the surreal adrenaline rush and thrill of meeting even more new people and have a blast as we enjoy the various performances and time together,” she said.

Prisca Mbori, a Kenyan sales professional and mother of three, also sees it as an opportunity to “give back to this amazing country”.

“Being a resident of the UAE for 12 years, this has become home for me and my family. I am happy that I am being part of history. As a volunteer, I am serving the country with no expectations. However, in the process, I am sure I will learn a lot from an international event of this scale,” said Mbori.

Volunteers to represent Dubai’s diversity

The Expo 2020 Dubai volunteers represent the diversity and multiculturalism of Dubai, said Abeer Al Hosani, director of volunteers at the Expo.

Women make up more than half of the volunteers while 46 per cent are UAE nationals.

“As the first World Expo in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia region, it’s befitting that our volunteers are as diverse as our host city. Stemming from all segments of society, including university students, employees, national service cadets, homemakers, retirees and people of determination, Expo volunteers represent 135-plus nationalities,” Al Hosani said in an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times.

Currently, the volunteers are undergoing a thorough training programme, with the support of the Dubai Police, the official training supporter of Expo 2020 Volunteers.

They will play a crucial role in managing the vast number of diverse experiences, events and global discussions taking place daily at the world fair.

“They will be the first point of contact for the millions of visitors who join us, so their responsibilities will vary,” Al Hosani said.

“Their contribution is critical at every stage of the Expo experience, providing services in areas such as the thematic pavilions, events, ceremonies and hospitality, transportation, VIPs and protocol, technology support and other vital sections.”

For instance, the country team members will be assigned to a specific country pavilion and are responsible for assisting in the delivery and management of its day-to-day activities. The school team members will support school group visits, taking place on weekdays, guiding groups along their Expo journey.

anjana@khaleejtimes.com

author

Anjana Sankar

Anjana Sankar is a UAE-based journalist chasing global stories of conflict, migration and human rights. She has reported from the frontlines of the wars in Yemen and Syria and has extensively written on the refugee crisis in Bangladesh, Iraq and Europe. From interviewing Daesh militants to embedding with the UAE army in Yemen, and covering earthquakes, floods, terrorist attacks and elections, she has come out scathe-free from the most dangerous conflict zones of the world. Riding on over 14 years of experience, Anjana currently is an Assistant Editor with Khaleej Times and leads the reporting team. She often speaks about women empowerment on her Facebook page that has 40,000 plus followers.

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