Team of 211 volunteers ramped up efforts this year to ensure all visitors a safe and delightful
11-day SIBF experience
Apart from the authors, intellectuals, and thinkers who enriched the cultural agenda of the 39th Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) with their stimulating debates and discussions, there was another category of individuals who – through the magnitude and diversity of their services – played a vital role in shaping the success of the event, once again this year.
Spotted all over the venue in their unique vests, the stellar team of 211 volunteers comprising university students, homemakers and employees were an integral taskforce in facilitating the organisational aspects of one of the world’s top three book fairs. With the word ‘Volunteer’ emblazoned on their vests, this group of enthusiastic full-of-life women and men were found across the halls and hallways of Expo Centre Sharjah where SIBF 2020 took place from November 4 – 14.
Some were tasked with promoting awareness about the preventive measures adopted by Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) to contain the spread of COVID-19, and ensure that all visitors and exhibitors were adhering to the precautionary guidelines issued by the UAE health authorities.
They were at the reception offices standing to handle visitor registrations, and helped them find specific publishers, or even a specific book among millions displayed at the fair. Others were helping children and the elderly. Whatever duties the volunteers performed, it followed their belief that all visitors at the most significant cultural event in the region should enjoy a seamless and hassle-free experience.
The first batch of volunteers from the Sharjah Volunteer Centre, under the auspices of the Sharjah Social Services Department (SSSD), arrived as soon as the Expo Centre Sharjah opened its doors. The morning shift volunteers were divided into three teams that work from 9:00 am to 03:00 pm. The three teams on the evening shift worked from 03:00 pm to 10:00 pm.
Specific roles and duties
On each team in every shift, volunteers were assigned specific roles and duties. Members of the first team helped visitors to register. The role of the second team of volunteers was to raise their awareness on preventive measures and physical distancing, and to ensure that visitors had their face masks on and were always maintaining a safe distance from other guests. The third team, which received prior training, collaborated with the Sharjah Civil Defense Department to help in safety, security, and emergency situations.
Lauding the tireless services offered by the volunteers, Badr Mohammed Saab, Head of Corporate Communication at SBA, stated that the integral role of volunteers in paving the path of the success of the event cannot be overlooked. He pointed out that throughout the previous editions, volunteer teams have contributed immensely with their unique diligence, persistence and creativity while offering premium services to visitors in a courteous and respectful manner.
He further said: “The ongoing challenges of the coronavirus pandemic have necessitated the need to double up efforts to provide a quality, enjoyable experience for our visitors and participants. Our team of volunteers were both reliable and trustworthy and by working in collaboration with their team members, they ably met the needs of visitors throughout the 11-day event. We commend their efforts and laud the ethical and humanitarian values they embody.”
She added: “Volunteers catered to visitors’ needs and received feedback to improve the services. They also helped with a wide range of administrative work including filling attendance records, that enabled them to acquire skill sets beneficial for their future.”
“Along with the Wamda team, the event saw the participation of the Sanid volunteer team who managed the crowded areas, responded to medical emergencies and provided first aid. They assisted in raising awareness about preventive measures for COVID-19; they are certified and qualified to handle all forms of emergencies,” she explained.
Zain Muhielddine stated that 211 volunteers from diverse age groups were selected from the centre’s platform which received more than 400 applications for voluntary services at SIBF this year. She pointed out that volunteering was a great way to give back to the community, get valuable work experience, and played a vital role in shaping the success of any event.