United Arab Emirates volunteers help with Hurricane Sandy relief efforts

UAE volunteersSaood Al Jneibi’s recent work week was way outside his comfort zone — and his usual geographical zone. The 25-year-old Emirati college student found himself using a power saw to cut flood vents in the foundation of a new Habitat for Humanity home in the small coastal town of Sea Bright, New Jersey.

Al Jneibi was one of 12 adventurous young volunteers from the United Arab Emirates who flew almost 7,000 miles, from Dubai to New York City, to help Habitat’s Hurricane Sandy relief efforts in May. The group built with homeowner Leslie Morris, a dental assistant whose home was destroyed by the storm. She and her son Neil, who has autism, have been living in federal housing since 2012, but now see their new Habitat Monmouth County home rising up on the lot where their old house once stood.

Morris’ house received national attention when it was framed in Times Square by Lowe’s volunteers in March and featured on Good Morning America. The walls were transported to Sea Bright, where the UAE volunteers then worked on the house, alongside American volunteers.

UAE volunteers
Saood Al Jneibi and Asma Al Meheiri traveled from the United Arab Emirates to New Jersey
to help build a new Habitat home.

Photos courtesy of Lujan Mourad

The volunteer trip was Al Jneibi’s first time visiting the United States, just as it was Asma Al Meheiri’s. “It is amazing how friendly and hospitable people here are,” said Al Meheiri, a 20-year-old bank employee from Dubai. “In our culture, hospitality is very important, so this shows me how similar we are.”

The UAE volunteers in Sea Bright are the third group from that country to help Habitat in the United States. Previous groups helped build Habitat houses in the aftermath of devastating tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, says Lujan Mourad, senior project lead for the Emirates Foundation, the organization that set up the humanitarian trip.

“Emirati culture has always been embedded with the spirit of volunteering,” Mourad says. “It’s something we are taught from an early age, and it’s a culture we would like to share.”