From one lone mother creating a group and adding a few friends to more than 5,300 members, Facebook group British Mums Dubai is now one of the most popular, busy and influential groups in the region. We spoke to the founders – Jemma Schilbach, Samantha Charlesworth, Sandrine Prevenier-Warrington and Emma Pearsall-Mchugh – to find out how it’s changing lives
Jemma: I created BMD to fill a gap; I wanted a warm, friendly resource where I could ask advice, share information and build a network of like-minded mums with a sense of community and support. It might seem mean excluding other nationalities but relevance pulls people together and helps them bond; by restricting membership eligibility to British mums and mums of British children, we’re able to make sure the group is full of advice and information that’s relevant to its members.
Samantha: It’s been said we’re a better bet than Google for finding information – members say they can post a question and have an answer in under two minutes!
Emma: All manner of things fall under the remit of the group. We regularly see women post needing help with taking care of children in an emergency, finding a job when they’ve been made redundant, even finding an essential cooking ingredient around town, and within no time there are offers of childcare, recruitment contacts, sightings of ingredients.
Samantha: We do have an incredibly supportive community of women; recently we had a member tragically lose her husband and within a matter of days, through the group we’d organised a free nursery place for her little one, free home help and regular food deliveries to get her through such an awful time. We’ve also had members offer practical support to a new mum having an awful time managing her newborn twins; suitcases reunited with their owners after ending up in the wrong countries; long-lost uncles reunited with families; a neglected pet shop Labrador liberated and rehomed, among other things.
Sandrine: It’s not always serious things group members help with, though; we once had a lady lose her child’s favourite toy at an airport in the UK, and through the group the toy made its way back to its little owner in Dubai. And we regularly see light-hearted posts that are simply meant to cheer people up for the day.
Jemma: We’re all volunteers and give up a lot of time for the group, so it’s nice to get positive feedback. We’ve had newbies to Dubai say the group has helped them settle, find friends and network, and long-term residents tell us how the group has got them through tough times such as having a baby, losing a job or the death of a loved one. That makes it all worthwhile.