Dubai's Desperate Housewife

Trials and traumas of a full-time mum in Dubai

A personal rant about Dubai’s labourers

with 7 comments

Every now and then my children’s school participates in a “charity box appeal” where you have to fill a small box with various essentials to give to Dubai’s labourers (if you aren’t familiar with the term, these are the manual workers who work long shifts, earn a pittance and live cheek-by-jowl in “labour camps”). A list comes home with each empty box – they ask for things like soap, shampoo, razors, shaving foam, shower gel, toothpaste, a toothbrush, a baseball cap, a t-shirt, a hand towel and so on.

And, while I’m always happy to help these guys, the whole thing – if I’m honest – makes me angry. Not because I’m a spoiled expat who doesn’t appreciate what Dubai’s labourers do, but because these men should not be charity cases. They’re not refugees; they’re not homeless; and nor are they jobless.

They’re actually men in full-time paid employment in a first world country. And my children are sending them free soap, for heaven’s sake. Soap.

The “charity drives” make me feel angry toward the employers who think it’s fine to bring these men over to a foreign country and pay them so little that they have to rely on the kindness of strangers for their basic essentials. What kind of company can do that? What kind of employer can sleep at night knowing that his paid staff is relying on charity hand-outs just to keep clean? Have they no sense of social responsibility? No concept of karma?

I wish we could do more than send him soap. I wish we could change his world. Pic from

The whole thing makes me feel so hopeless. Sick, actually.

But then, yesterday, I saw a picture in the paper of a labourer receiving his box. And the expression on his face made me forget, for a minute, my anger towards his employer.

But even the sight of 1,000 (clean and) happy faces doesn’t change a thing. While I’d never want to detract from the charity box appeals and the welcome relief that they bring, relying on hand-outs for basics is not the answer. This is a problem that can only be addressed from the top down.


Written by mrsdubai

November 28, 2012 at 7:11 pm

7 Responses

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  1. Absolutely wonderfully stated! I wish this was sorted from the top down, however, sadly we all know it never will be 😦

    Nicola Heath

    November 28, 2012 at 10:35 pm

  2. In fact I think most of the boxes go to labour camps that have been abandoned by the employer, so the workers are in fact not earning and potentially homeless, stranded here with no money to get home or feed themselves. Not that this makes the situation any more acceptable, and your point remains – companies should not be able to do this…..


    November 29, 2012 at 9:44 am

  3. 😦 it really is sad that this happens… and in DUBAI!! but this is a country that works on this warped belief that not all human beings deserve to have the lifestyle that, ironically, dubai likes to flaunt.


    November 29, 2012 at 11:28 am

  4. Finally someone is saying out loud what I’ve been thinking since I’ve moved here! Totally agree with you.


    December 3, 2012 at 10:31 am

  5. Almost unfallen tears in the eyes, Excellently crafted words to show off the desperate situations of the workers who are building this dream city.


    June 12, 2014 at 6:54 pm

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