An experiment in Dubai altruism (Part 1)

In leaving Dubai I knew I had to downsize considerably. I needed to move from a two bedroom villa down to a backpack, but more importantly I wanted to know in leaving, I’d leave as small a footprint as possible. I wanted this to be positive for the people around me and for the environment.

First and foremost, I believe a move should not result in a pile of items in a landfill. While it might be the easiest approach, it’s both toxic to the land and a waste of potentially useful items or cash those items could generate.

Secondly, many of the items in my house had been simply given to me. I had benefitted from a great deal of kindness from friends in the past and I think that if you pay that kindness forward you’ll see a knock on effect over time.

So the question is: With a household of used items as your ‘only’ asset, how can you do some good?

Choosing who to help

First up, get clear on who you want to help and why. Make sure there are as few middlemen in the process as possible. For me these were:

  1. Reducing the suffering of dogs in the UAE by contributing to an animal shelter.
  2. Reducing the suffering of stray cats in Dubai by contributing to the vet bill of people I personally know that catch, spade/neuter and release stray cats.
  3. Reducing the suffering of people affected by job layoffs in the UAE (on a small scale)

Spreading the word

I wanted the good will and message to get out to everyone I interacted with so spreading the word was almost as important as raising cash. I encouraged other people to help by doing the following:

  • Everyone buying from me learned that the money was going to a good cause and not going into my pocket. This encouraged ~50% to not negotiate down the price and about ~10% to offer more money that they knew the item was worth.
  • I refused to sell anything to low-ballers who were obviously going to resell for a profit. Electronics and appliances were the main target of such offers and I’m happy to say not a single item went to someone profit seeking.
  • I did accept low offers from people in need. Maids or families with lower incomes did also benefit by getting items for very cheap or in some cases for free.

Helping to reduce the suffering of animals

The animal shelters in the UAE can be surprisingly easy to help and I would encourage everyone to think of this over using Take My J*** or other profit seeking companies. Many will gladly accept any item and then raise funds by selling the items from a warehouse or in a garage sale. The company I used conveniently sent a truck to pick up whatever I had left, including a king size bed, a leather couch and some other large furniture that was difficult to move. I also made sure I hung onto items the shelter could use such as towels / sheets and by refusing to accept low ball offers I ultimately kept more items for them.

Taking care of stray cats is a deeply difficult and selfless act in the UAE which few have the stomach for. The Arabian Mau (the common desert cat) can multiply extremely quickly and a single pregnant female can result in a colony of 50+ cats in just over a year. The strategy employed by many animal lovers is to prevent this rapid exponential growth of cat colonies by catching, spade / neutering, and then hopefully finding a home for them. If not a home, many are released back into the area which they were found to live their lives without creating a new generation of cats to feed. The challenge comes in that often these cats end up gruesomely injured and surgeries or medications needed to keep them alive can pile up. Many vets offer discounted rates to people who take care of animals but in the end someone has to front the bill.

To help these people, ask around. There’s almost guaranteed to be someone in your area who takes care of cats. Find out which vet they use and go directly to the vet to pay the bill.

In Part 2 – I’ll go through the process used to sell everything, tips for generating more money and the total raised.

Published by Daniel

Author of the No Plan blog

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