By Gavin Gibbon
Anna Arzua MacMillan has drawn inspiration from a group in her native Spain to help people in the UAE emotionally and economically through the current crisis
A Facebook group, which was initially launched in the UAE to provide support to individuals during the current coronavirus crisis, has grown exponentially and is now looking to help small businesses in the country survive.
The idea was born when Anna Arzua MacMillan, a Spanish expat living in Dubai, was forced to organise help for her mother back in Spain, which has been particularly hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It was quite easy and the community was very responsive and very welcoming,” she told Arabian Business. “I could sense that a lot of them were fine, but they had a need to keep in touch.”
A doctor by trade, MacMillan, who has been in Dubai for 13 years and now works in a Healthcare Tech Startup and events, then brought the idea to the region and launched the #InThisTogetherUAE – UAE Buddy group.
“I created the community and within a couple of days we started receiving requests that were not only about checking with people or doing some shopping for them or walking their pets, it was going far beyond that,” she said.
What began in early March by offering emotional and practical support, fetching shopping and medication, developed into putting people in touch with healthcare professionals and psychologists; lawyers offered their help and employment agencies came on board to read over CVs and offer employment tips.
MacMillan explained: “We are not a charity because we are not asking for any monetary donations. We are not receiving anything, but we are sharing our most important asset, Time. I’m a person with a lot of contacts and what I’m doing is using all of that network and trying to expand it in a way that I can connect people that need help with those who can help.”
The group is receiving Job applications and forwarding them to recruitment companies who have offered to support jobseekers in this process.
While parents are being offered assistance with home schooling – the group has partnered with CaveHomeschoolers, experts in homeschooling and eLearning, who are offering buddies to support parents in the transition to online learning.
It also includes those in the business world and SMEs.
“A lot of SMEs are going to be impacted. I believe if we can find ways to offer professionally a couple of hours, to help these SMEs to navigate this process, we can avoid a lot of them to have to shut down,” said MacMillan.
Through the group, professionals are being urged to sign-up to a mentorship scheme, offering help and guidance to business owners struggling to survive the current economic challenges caused by Covid-19.
MacMillan revealed they have 30 volunteers signed up and over 3,800 requests for help.
She said: “We are requesting from all the people who register as mentors that they have to give three hours for free to one company. That’s minimum.
“Ideally what we say is, if you can offer 10 or 20 hours then we split the time with four or five SMEs or Entrepreneurs because we don’t have too many mentors right now.
“If we can make sure that four or five SMEs don’t have to shut down, or don’t need to fire employees, I think everyone will give that time.
“The community here in the UAE is always very welcoming of opportunities to help.”
To find out more or to offer mentorship, visit In This Together - UAE Buddy