Many of Dubai’s residents may know that 2017 has been the Year of Giving for our great Emirate, which has been a call for all residents as well as the private and public sectors to actively engage in volunteering and charity.  It’s been a tremendous success by all accounts, and the UAE was just named the World’s Most Generous Nation … as they have become the world’s largest donor of developmental aid relative to its national income (OECD).  According to OECD statistics, in 2016 UAE aid reached AED 15.57billion ($4.24 billion), which represents 1.21 percent of the country’s gross national income (GNI).

I’ve been proud of the efforts of the people, the companies, and the government institutions here in Dubai that are actively encouraging a spirit of giving.  If you’re familiar with the work that we’re doing at DubaiPersonalFinance, then you also know that giving is core to my mission.

So when J.Money from RockstarFinance sent an email to the personal finance bloggers community a couple weeks ago that said …

“We’re looking for 20 bloggers who can take $100 each and then turn it into some some joy and happiness for someone in their lives who really needs it. It could be a person, group of people, a cause you strongly believe in – or even something relating to your blog community. The only rule is that you have to use it TO DO GOOD, and then you have to blog about it before Christmas. You can be as creative or not as you want!”

… I jumped on the opportunity!

Since then I’ve been thinking about how to best turn $100 into joy and happiness for someone who really needs it.  I considered giving it to one of the charities recommended by GiveWell, which evaluates non-profits on the basis of the Effective Altruism.  I also considered giving it to DubaiCares, which does great work in the area of education and human rights both in Dubai and countries across the globe.

In the end, I decided that the best approach would be to find a way to have a direct impact on a few of my fellow Dubai residents and try to bring just a little joy and happiness to their lives.

(Quick note: the UAE is a Muslim country, but Christmas is widely celebrated here and everyone I’ve met always appreciates well-wishes and good cheer!)


Making Dubai Spirits Bright

If you’re familiar with the meteoric rise of Dubai over the last 20-30 years then you know that this city has been built with the hard work and dedication of the labor and service class.  In January 2016, the Gulf News reported that there were over 500,000 laborers living in Dubai (that’s a lot of people!).

These laborers are building Dubai’s skyline in tough conditions and are often living here without their family and sending 90%+ of their salary to their relatives in their home country.  I recommend reading this great article in The National newspaper, for an overview of the salaries and money management trends within the laborer and service populations in Dubai.

So with all this in mind, I decided to go to one of the shopping plaza’s deep in the heart of Al Quoz, which is an industrial zone in Dubai and home to many of the labor camps.

My goal was simple, to find a few people …

  • Who I could give some CASH to, and
  • To CONNECT with for a moment to let them know how THANKFUL I am for the work they do to make Dubai such a great place to live.

I set out with 400AED ($108.92) in cash and stood outside the exit of a large grocery store, just waiting for the right people to come along…


And come along they did!  I found 5 great guys to give the cash to and have a quick conversation with each…



Here’s a quick summary of the people I met… (I did ask and learn their names, but I’ll keep it private for their sake.)

  • Top Left: these two guys were awesome.  They had just bought a ton of groceries including a cake and were actually headed to a Christmas party right then and there!  I gave them the cash which more than covered their receipt and they were super pumped about it.  They walked away and then came BACK to take a picture of me on their phone so they could tell their friends about the crazy guy who gave them cash at the store.  I hope they had a great Christmas party!


  • Top Right: this guy was working at a nearby construction site and was just coming back from a break where he had purchased the teas in his hand for his friends.  He was in a hurry, so I quickly thanked him for all his work, gave him the cash and shared my best wishes for happiness for him and his family.


  • Bottom Left: this guy was heading home with his groceries when I stuck my hand out for a handshake and a warm “Merry Christmas” greeting.  I chatted him up for a few minutes before even mentioning the cash.  He was easy going and glad to just have a quick conversation about life in Dubai.  He was thankful for the money and gave all his best wishes back to me and my family!  Cool.


  • Bottom Right: this guy was full of smiles but you’d never believe it!  He walked out of the store with a few bags of groceries and I offered to give him some of the cash and he was just shocked.  He thought it was a scam or something.  But when I encouraged him that I was giving the cash for free in the spirit of Christmas, his eyes lit up and he happily took the money.  We spoke for a few minutes and he shared a little bit about his work and personal life, with his wife and 3 children at home in another country.  I wished him all the best and asked to take a picture.  It seems he’s the strong silent type in photo’s, but it was great to meet him and connect for a brief moment!


So that’s it!  That’s how I did my best turn $100 (400AED) and an hour of my time into joy and happiness for someone who really needs it.  Trust me, I have no illusions that this simple act dramatically changed any lives today … it was just a few bucks.  But, I do hope that the guys appreciated both the money and the few minutes of connection and conversation with someone who is thankful for all the hard work they do here in Dubai.  It was a great experience and I’m glad to have briefly connected with each of the gentlemen I met today.


With that, I wish you a Very Merry Christmas from my family to yours and everyone in Dubai!  We hope you have a happy and blessed holiday and are looking forward to a great New Years!!


As always, check out these additional resources below…

Matt Nobles is the founder of Dubai Personal Finance.  In addition to being a certified Personal Finance Education Instructor, Matt also has 10 years of Corporate Finance experience, working for a large multi-national company.  Matt is passionate about helping people like you learn how to make wise money management choices, so you can achieve Financial Independence and focus on living the life you’ve always wanted.

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(Disclaimer: This article contains information for your reference and explains options you may have, but it is not intended to be specific advice or a personal recommendation. exists to provide general guidance and education, but your situation may vary from the one discussed here, so please seek a licensed professional for tax, legal, financial planning or investment advice.)


Please let me know what you think of this post.  How would you have used the $100 to bring joy and happiness to someone who needs it?

  • Love how you spread it around!! And that you took the time to chat with them too 🙂