Reaching out to people in need during pandemic
September 11 2020 08:15 PM
Suzanne Malek, with others, busy distributing food items
Suzanne Malek, with others, busy distributing food items

Suzanne Malek, expatriate from the US, shares how she started helping people needing food and grocery during Covid-19 outbreak

Helping others in the hour of need is a noble cause. It may be easy to take an initiative but it is often daunting to sustain volunteering and social work.

The urge for volunteerism and social work might not have been felt stronger than it is being felt during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. In Qatar, many organisations and groups – both Governmental and non-governmental – have been dedicated to extending helping hand to the people in need.

The challenging times have also forced many individuals to get to social work and help the needy as the pandemic has rendered many jobless putting them in dire financial conditions. Suzanne Malek, an expatriate from the United States, is one such volunteer who has committed herself to providing grocery and food to those who asked for the stuff.

In a recent interaction with Gulf Times, Suzanne shared that how she resumed helping others during the coronavirus outbreak. Mother of four, she moved to Qatar with her husband in 2007. “We came with three children and had our fourth child here. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology. I have a heart for social work and enjoy helping others in need.”

Soon after the virus outbreak, Suzanne realised that the pandemic is going to stay for a long time and a lot of people will face harsh times. “During the lockdown, I spent a lot of time with my family at home. When I began to realise that things could be shut down for a long time, I started praying for something special to do. I knew that I needed an outward focus and that I would no longer be able to meet with people as before.”

The volunteer got a push when she saw one of her neighbours distributing food items among the people in need. “One day my neighbour let me know she was contributing to an effort to help people in need of food. In April, I joined in and also began to help people with groceries. I knew that to keep this effort sustainable, I would need a lot of support. I reached out to friends and neighbours and we communicated as needs were made known. We have a list of grocery items and when requests come in we determine how many items we need to provide for the people for two weeks.

“People volunteer to purchase enough grocery items for those requesting. Some people, involved in this effort, traveled outside Qatar but continued to be involved by using various online grocery delivery services available here. Some neighbours and friends would regularly bring basic food items to help with keeping up the stock. Sometimes, my children would help in packaging the food parcels.”

She further said: “Finally, volunteers pick up the food parcels and deliver them to the people that had requested for it. We also give the grocery recipients links to charity help in case they qualify. We also let them know that if they need groceries again, they should contact us in two weeks. Often we receive requests from new people as food recipients share our contact information with their friends in need. We have continued to help those reaching out to us for food, but they are fewer now as many have thankfully been able to return to work or to their home countries.”

Besides giving away the grocery and food, Suzanne has also been involved in other volunteer activities in Qatar. “I have been able to volunteer at schools, at a women’s centre teaching English, at Church and at Hamad Hospital. I have had more time to contribute to volunteering as my children are older now.”

The expatriate pursues her work religiously. “Almighty wants us to help others in need and there are many ways we can do this. When the virus outbreak happened, none of us could have guessed how many people would run into difficult times and how long things would remain shut down. When I was a child, my family experienced difficulties and we received help from others. I am grateful to have found a way to go outside of myself by contributing to the needs of others in this time. It has been a blessing for me and the group I have been able to be a part of. I have also experienced the added gift of friendship and community as I have been able to communicate and work with amazing and generous people while doing this, as well as very kind and appreciative recipients.”

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