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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Former laborer’s cool campaign offers respite to thousands in Qatar

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All photos courtesy of Firos Thrayil

Qatar resident Firos Thrayil knows what it feels like to toil on a construction site in the intense summer heat.

The 38-year-old Indian electrical designer now heads a team of volunteers who hand out fruit, water and juice to thousands of construction workers across Qatar.

But he spent his first two years in the region on a building site in Dubai. Speaking to Doha News, Thrayil recalled:

“I have a degree, but when I came to the Gulf, the only job I could get was in Dubai as a helper on a site. Since then, with the grace of God, I got good jobs, a good salary and I am able to have my family here with me, so I am so happy.

But I understand how much these men struggle and how they are feeling. I wanted to do something to help them.”

Undeterred by Qatar’s heat, dust and humidity, he and a group of 20 other volunteers have delivered in-kind donations of food and drinks to more than 5,000 men this summer.

The group Nanma Qatar spent the last two Saturdays driving around building sites in Lusail and near Aspire Park, handing out care packages to the men toiling in the intense summer heat to build some of Qatar’s landmark projects.

The scheme has been running for two years, with small teams going out around town up to 15 times a year to give out basic snack packs to around 10,000 workers a year.

This year’s campaign started this month, and plans are already underway to continue the collections and distributions next month.

Workers’ struggle

The initiative got started when Thrayil, who has lived in Qatar for 12 years, started buying groceries and distributing them himself. He then began encouraging some friends to help.

“These people are working very, very hard compared to us. I sit in my air-conditioned office while they are outside in the elements, building Qatar,” Thrayil said.

“They work outdoors in the heat of the summer and in the dust. They don’t get invited to parties or iftars and some people don’t like it when they are near them at malls or outdoor events. We just want to care for them and respect them.”

Initially, the small group focused on helping workers at the Indian Embassy, providing administrative and legal support in addition to giving out food and clothes to those in need.

Over the years, the campaign has grown and many of the donations to the group follow as a result of social media announcements.

During the summer, the volunteers distribute cold drinks and snacks, while in the winter they give out warm clothes and blankets.

Qatar Cool campaign
Qatar Cool campaign

“We don’t accept any cash, but we post up on Facebook and Whatsapp, asking for drinks, food or clothes and we get lots of donations that way,” Thrayil said.

He added that sometimes people drop items off at his house, or volunteers drive those without transport to the supermarket to buy goods.

There is an active core of around 10 people who organize the weekend campaigns, bolstered by more who join on an ad hoc basis to help collect and distribute the items for the latest Cool Campaign.

Other efforts

The donations campaign is one of a number of similar endeavors that are organized by volunteers across town, to help some of Qatar’s thousands of low-paid workers.

Some, such as resident Shahbaz Shaikh, hand out bottles of water, particular during the mid-summer.

Mohamed Tariq Qalam and Shahbaz Shaikh hand out water.
Mohamed Tariq Qalam and Shahbaz Shaikh hand out water.

Two years ago, local volunteer-run organization See My Culture organized a similar venture, gathering support through social media with its campaign #WhatIWillDo.

Meanwhile, iftar tents for workers that are organized by charities and individuals have become common in Ramadan, while other families are setting up fridges stocked with food and drinks that are free for those in need.

The date of the next cool campaign distribution is still to be confirmed. To donate goods or to help out, call Thrayil on 7737 3050.

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