Businesswoman in Dubai to offer free food to 17 needy families during Ramadan

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A businesswoman in Dubai has pledged to provide free food to 17 needy families during Ramadan.

Saeeda Riaz, 40, who runs a property management company in the emirate, will offer food to people who have lost jobs or took pay cuts during the pandemic.

Families contacted her through the Helping Hands UAE Facebook group managed by Ms Riaz and her husband.

One of the families was a widow with seven children. She hadn’t been hit by the pandemic but still needed help

Saeeda Riaz

“I am providing them food that can be used for iftar and suhoor consisting of items like flour, dates, chickpeas and juices,” said Ms Riaz, from Pakistan.

“A lot of people have been affected by the pandemic and need help.

“I am paying for it as I felt it was important to support families who have been struggling.”

Ms Riaz said she made sure help was given to those who needed it the most.

“I had to do due diligence on the people applying and make sure they could prove they had lost their jobs or had received pay cuts because of the pandemic,” she said.

Mark and Jo-Ann Belonio, pictured with their daughter Maj-Arjed. They are one of the families who will receive support from Saeeda Riaz this Ramadan. Courtesy: Mark Belonio
Mark and Jo-Ann Belonio, pictured with their daughter Maj-Arjed. They are one of the families who will receive support from Saeeda Riaz this Ramadan. Courtesy: Mark Belonio

“There were quite a few people who reached out but couldn’t provide any documentation or proof. I felt they were just trying their luck to get free meals.”

Ms Riaz also helped several families last summer. They were mainly residents who lost their jobs or were waiting for clearance to return to their home countries. She let them stay for free at the properties she managed.

“Many of the families who are receiving the Ramadan packages contacted me after reading about Helping Hands last year in The National,” she said.

“I was able to take a look at their circumstances and see who was most in need of help.

“One of the families was a widow with seven children. She hadn’t been hit by the pandemic but still needed help to provide for her children.

Sheryl De La Cruz, with her husband Shadi and their two daughters. They will receive help this Ramadan. Courtesy: Sheryl De La Cruz
Sheryl De La Cruz, with her husband Shadi and their two daughters. They will receive help this Ramadan. Courtesy: Sheryl De La Cruz

“Another husband and wife just came out of quarantine after contracting Covid-19 and he was not paid for the time he was off.

“They were relying on his Dh2,500 salary but missed out on half of it because he wasn’t able to attend work for 15 days.”

Filipino Mark Bolonio, 34, an office administrator, lost his job in June 2020. He praised Ms Riaz for helping him and his family.

“It is a big, big help. Both me and my wife have been out of work for so long,” said Mr Bolonio, father of an 11-month-old daughter.

“She also helped us by providing milk and diapers recently and I can’t thank her enough.”

Sheryl De La Cruz, 35, lost her job as a nursery assistant in Ras Al Khaimah last summer.

Her husband, who works as a chef, took a 50 per cent pay cut around the same time, leaving them with Dh1,500 to survive.

“We have two daughters, one is six-months-old and the other is three years,” she said.

“We are all living in the same room. We are extremely grateful for all the help Ms Riaz has given us.”

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Published: April 1, 2021 05:39 PM