7 Ways to Pay It Forward, #5 InThisTogetherUAE – UAEBuddy

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Welcome to ‘7 Ways To Pay It Forward’, 7 questions to individuals who are making a difference in the community. Each day we will feature a different initiative with details of how you too can get involved.

As always please do share with us any other initiatives you may know of and we can add them to our growing list which will be published on the seventh day.

Be safe, give back & stay connected!



Anna Arzua MacMillan

It all started last month with a simple Facebook message, asking if anyone needed help. The response was so overwhelming, UAE resident Anna Arzua MacMillan decided to create the group #InThisTogether and from this the UAE Buddy was born. The main aim of the group is to mobilize the community to come together and help in whatever way they can, be it as a mentor to someone who has lost their job, offering expert services to those with anxiety or simply delivering food to someone who is housebound.

The two words we should live by, says Anna, both personally and professionally, are solidarity and altruism and from this we will get through these challenging times.


1/ Please can you tell me about your background, your business, when you started and why? 

I’m a healthcare professional with an MBA, and in 2014 left my Big Pharma corporate life to work on a Digital Health start up focused on preventive medicine.


2/ Why did you decide to start the initiative, what has the response been like so far?

I’ve always been involved in different community initiatives; I’m convinced so much more is always possible when communities come together.

I started #InThisTogetherUAE and the program “UAE Buddy” the first week of March, motivated initially by the need to make sure that everything would be in place for my mom, who lives in Spain, at one of the epicenters of this pandemic. The next thing was to try and take care of those who would need help here in our community. So, I started building a platform, adding features, and identifying all the areas where people needed support. The response has been overwhelming in some areas and heart-warming at the same time. Although, there’s still a lot that needs to be done.


3/ Please can you explain how it works i.e. give details about the mechanics, who can get involved, what you need, what is the aim of the initiative?

The initiative is a connecting platform, where we connect those who need help, with others who can offer help. We are not a charity, as we don’t accept donations of any kind. The most valuable GIFTS you can provide in this platform are time and knowledge.

We are currently offering help in the following:

– UAE Buddy – Being available when needed, act as an emergency contact, give support to the homebound, and mental health support provided for free by professional volunteers.

– Home-schooling – Experienced parents and experts in home-schooling offer their support and welcome families through proven tips and tricks to make the most of the home-schooling experience.

– Jobs – we are receiving CVs of individuals who lost their job, and in partnership with recruiting companies, we are offering support to find new opportunities.

– SME corner – here we have identified a few areas of support through collaborations, pro bono services, shared resources, and free mentorships offered by experts in different areas of expertise i.e. an SME for an SME

– Speakers for Good – Professionals, subject matter experts, authors from around the World, conduct free webinars on our platform, and share their knowledge with the Entrepreneurial and SME community.

4/ What is the expected outcome, do you have a figure/goal/timeframe in mind?

When this started, I thought we needed to have two plans running in parallel, one a firefighting model, requiring an immediate response, and the other more strategic and sustained in time. There are two main things to look at, the present and the aftermath. With that being said, it’s difficult to estimate a timeframe, but all scenarios require that we work in the present moment towards the future.

The goal is to engage the community to support the community in the areas that we have identified, or wherever else is possible.

The expected outcome is to make things better in an impactful and measurable way, though organized and committed acts of kindness.


5/ What has been the biggest challenge for you during this time, as an individual and as a business owner?

There are so many, but I feel the biggest challenge is how attached we are to the traditional models that no longer offer answers. The questions have changed very rapidly, and with that, our need to adapt the responses at the right speed has become imperative.


6/ We talk about BC (life before COVID), what do you think life will be like AC (after COVID) personally and professionally?

Currently, we have our own fragility looking at us right in the face, and with it a lot of uncertainty. The good news is that as humans, we are a very resilient species. We have gone through similar life-changing events before, from the Antonine Plague to the Spanish Flu, and probably two words again will determine how well we do in the aftermath this time around: Solidarity and Altruism. I believe we will come out of this together, in order to do so we need to work together. If we join hands and minds to find solutions, we have the best chance of coming through it stronger and healthier. It won’t be easy but I am an optimist, a data-driven one, and I believe we will find new answers for many things that can’t be answered by previous models, and we will adapt and thrive once again.


7/ Can you tell me about some of the things you do in your daily life that are sustainable, what more can you do and has COVID made you think more sustainably?

Sustainability is one of those problematic topics at home right now. My daughter is the family environmental police. We don’t buy unnecessary things, we don’t stock up, or haven’t been using plastic bags for at least two years; we used to avoid all canned products and many other things that we deemed not environmentally friendly. Yet, today having this new reality, we feel that we need to compromise in other areas since we need to reduce the number of times a month we dedicate for shopping.

A few areas we are working on at the moment are: reducing the usage of the AC, turning off the lights when not in use, choosing chemical-free personal care products, eating more locally-grown food, supporting #TechForTrees (we have packed all our old electronic devices so that they can plant a new tree for each device).


Disclaimer: By promoting these initiatives Goumbook is not in any way profiting nor raising funds for any organisation, individual or company.

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A doctor by trade, Anna MacMillan, who has been in Dubai for 13 years and now works in a Healthcare Tech Startup and events, launched the #InThisTogetherUAE – UAE Buddy group back in March 2020

You can visit the website or you can join their dedicated Facebook group: