This month Real Housewives of Abu Dhabi shines the Spotlight on Babs Klijn, Founder of Feel Great Helping – A network of people who help various causes around Abu Dhabi. Ramadan care packages, skills training, Christmas care packages – there is no discrimination or religious affiliations to the projects they support. The only goal is to help make someone’s life a little bit better. A goal which is benefited by both sides – hence the name “Feel Great Helping.” This is the type of community where you can witness first hand the positive impact that is made. For example – women labourers need blankets for winter. Ok…organize a blanket drive. There are various causes that the group takes on each year. She has amazing women as part of the team, but Babs has made this happen by organising and managing it. Her positive influence empowers all women and her leadership is inspiring.
Describe yourself in three words:
Kind, Generous, Diligent.
What do you consider your greatest professional achievement?
I find the voluntary work I’m doing now to assist women labourers and other good causes far more satisfying than anything I’ve done in paid employment. I’m very fortunate that my husband’s move to the UAE has given me this opportunity. Spreading joy through simple acts of kindness. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
How do you stay connected through social media?
I’m not a big fan of social media for personal use, because it can be so time consuming, but it’s a really effective way to raise awareness of worthy causes and for that I use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
I’d love to be an artist and run a cooperative where I and other artists could teach low-income women creative skills and sell their work to improve their living standards.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
With difficulty, there are so many opportunities to make a difference. When you see how much joy can be given to those less fortunate with just a small amount of effort, you try harder and harder to help more and more people. Luckily, I have an understanding husband and a growing circle of wonderful volunteers who help share the load. But to avoid burnout, I’ve learned it’s important to take a complete break and will close Feel Great Helping over Christmas/New Year and also during July and August.
What websites do you visit every day?
Feel Great Helping facebook page and Google.
Who is your hero and how have they helped make you who you are today?
I don’t have a particular hero, but draw my inspiration from those people who model kindness, tolerance and generosity such as Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela and the wonderful friends around me.
What are your top 3 favorite people/places/things in Abu Dhabi?
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Falcon Hospital, and creative workshops with labourers at Westcoast women’s camp in Mussafah.
What is your goal for retirement?
Travelling with my husband to support good causes around the world and many happy years of relaxation in the sunshine with good friends and good food!
Do you have any advice for women who would like to start their own charity in Abu Dhabi?
Feel Great Helping is a social network for people who want to make a positive difference through simple acts of kindness. Feel Great Helping is not a charity, but by drawing on volunteers’ collective knowledge, skills and resources, we are able to support a variety of good causes.
My advice is to be mindful that ‘charity’ is approached differently by different cultures and the UAE is no exception. Let go of any preconceptions and work in a way that respects the local people and culture. Be kind to others trying to do good and look for ways to support each other, even if you don’t support their cause – they’re not the competition. What’s important is that they’re making a positive difference and there’s always room for more of that.
How did you come up with your idea to start Feel Great Helping?
Since moving to the UAE with my husband, I began looking for voluntary work that would focus my skills and energy. I wanted to help those fortunate enough to be living here, but not able to enjoy the same luxuries I do. I found volunteering for various charities rewarding and thought others would too, if they knew how to get involved. That’s when I decided to create a network of friends to share the experience of feeling great helping – and this is how Feel Great Helping began.
What challenges have you had to overcome and how?
I’ve had to push myself beyond my comfort zone and wrestle with fears and self-doubt. There’s also the ever present niggling guilt that I’m no longer in paid employment – I’m paid in smiles, not dirhams! What’s spurred me on is my husband and the wonderful people I have met on this journey – their support and encouragement have been invaluable. Thank you!
What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?
Become an artist and sell paintings to support projects empowering less fortunate women.
If you would like to learn more about Feel Great Helping, be sure to like the Feel Great Helping Facebook page. You can keep up to date on current projects and see how you can help.