How QF’s Friends of Al Shaqab program gives back to Qatar
As Al Shaqab has become established as a home for prestigious international equestrian events, as well as local showcases of equine excellence, the need to have the right number of people on board to make them a success has increased. And that’s where volunteers are vital.
Support for competitions such as Commercial Bank CHI Al Shaqab and the Longines Global Champions Tour, which are among the highlights of the Qatar Foundation member’s calendar, comes from Friends of Al Shaqab. The volunteering program was established by Fatin Al-Sada, its founding manager and Al Shaqab’s Head of Human Resources, who describes it as her “brainchild” – and also her way of to “giving back to the community, for the love of Qatar”.
Investing the free time that we all have in volunteering and supporting the community is the least that we can do to give something back to Qatar.
The seeds of volunteerism
“We live in a country that is very generous to its people” said Al-Sada. “Qatar provides its citizens and residents with the highest quality in everything, whether it is healthcare and education. So investing the free time that we all have in volunteering and supporting the community is the least that we can do to give something back to Qatar.”
Speaking about what inspired her to create Friends of Al Shaqab, Al-Sada said: “I have always had a personal passion to help and support the community, and my passion grew while I was studying abroad, and I was exposed to different volunteering opportunities.
“In 2010, I took it upon myself to plant the seeds of volunteerism to the Qatari community”.
According to Al-Sada, the program started by involving staff and students from Al Shaqab’s riding school, and their families. Soon after, it expanded to include students from QF schools and universities, and then the whole Qatari community.
“Our program also attracts international volunteers, who learn about us either from our website and social media platforms, or from their friends and families who live here,” said Al-Sada. “They are willing to fly from different countries around the world, and on their own budget, just to be part of our world-class equestrian competitions.”
Building a talent bank
Explaining how Al Shaqab’s volunteering program is unique, Al-Sada says it’s because of the diversity of volunteers’ nationalities, ages, and their skills and talents.
“Our volunteers come from many different professions” she explained. “We have experienced horse riders and competitors, veterinarians, doctors, engineers, and people from the fields of sport, health, and fitness. This mixture of backgrounds enriches the experience for our volunteers, and allows them to exchange knowledge.
“We also have housewives, parents, full-time employees, and students. We understand that our volunteers may have other commitments and duties, and we make the program flexible so that it suits everyone’s schedule.”
I can make new friends knowing that we are a part of the Al Shaqab family.
A community of friends
Many of the members of Friends of Al Shaqab have been showing their dedication and loyalty to the program for years, and one of the reasons for this is due to its family feel and the friendly environment that it creates.
Barbara Carolissen, from South Africa, has been supporting Al Shaqab events for over five years, and said: “I grew up riding horses, and being around the best riders in the world and getting inside the actual field of competition is just amazing.
“This year, I encouraged my husband to volunteer, as well as my son. One year, my sister – who is a horse rider – flew from South Africa just to be an Al Shaqab volunteer.”
Alanoud Abdullah Albuhadod, student at Texas A&M University at Qatar, QF partner university said: “As an engineering student, volunteering with Al Shaqab helps my communication skills. As I associate with different volunteers, and work with them as a team.
“I can make new friends knowing that we are a part of the Al Shaqab family. I can help people, which is what I enjoy the most. Being involved in such activities can open my eyes to the world. I get to show my gratitude to my country as I give back to the community”.
Connecting with others, improving life skills, enhancing wellness, and advancing career opportunities are some of the benefits participants can obtain through the volunteering experience. Ahmed Radi Attia is among those who have realized this. He first joined Friends of Al Shaqab in 2016, and has not missed an event since.
“Volunteering is my way of creating friends and building my network,” he said. “The good thing about Al Shaqab is how they get to know their volunteers, and understand their strengths and weaknesses, to empower them. After several events with Al Shaqab, I am now a volunteer leader, and I am proud of this achievement.”
Ali Raza, from Pakistan, has been a volunteer at Al Shaqab since 2014, and said: “Qatar has given me a good life, and this is one of the ways to give back to Qatar by serving the community through donating my time.
“I have volunteering experience in other places inside Qatar, and in other countries, but what I like about Al Shaqab is the excellent coordination and management of the volunteer program.”
My dream is to leave a legacy for the future generations to carry on what I have started, and to make volunteering become a healthy habit in our community.
Leaving a legacy
Friends of Al Shaqab has reached the point where it is one the most popular volunteer programs in the country. It currently has a database of almost 8,000 volunteers, including their particular interests, which helps Al Shaqab to select and assign volunteers to specific events.
As for the future of the program, Al-Sada says: “As a Qatari citizen, I created this program for my country. My dream is to leave a legacy for the future generations to carry on what I have started, and to make volunteering become a healthy habit in our community.”
The program welcomes volunteers aged 18 years old and above, and students aged 16-17 may be accepted with parental consent. A certiﬁcate of appreciation is awarded, and each volunteer, on request, will receive an official letter stating the number of hours they have given to support Al Shaqab. Registered volunteers also receive information about further volunteering opportunities with Al Shaqab and its partners.
For more information about volunteering at Al Shaqab, visit www.alshaqab.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.