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TAS ICONS: Meet Jo James, the founder of Oman’s largest Facebook community

TAS News Service
November 21, 2020 3:17 pm

This WHO is unlikely to give you a view of who is who in Oman but if you have a question, like where to buy something, or a problem, like there’s a snake in the AC, and need help then you are perhaps knocking at the right door.

What’s Happening, Oman?, or WHO, in short, is a popular Facebook group created to provide its members with a platform to share and care as well as to interact about different things happening in Oman, and the brains behind the group are Jo James and Miriam Al Farsi.

Managing a Facebook group that has over 30,000 people is no mean feat. From posting content to adding members, moderating discussions and even getting people to come together for a cause it is a lot of hard work. Yet, Jo has been doing a commendable job for the past many years as the administrator of the group.

Jo, who moved to Oman from the UK 13 years ago, is an English teacher at the University of Buraimi. Talking about the inception of What’s Happening, Oman?, Jo says: “What’s Happening, Oman? was created as there was a need for a group that allowed members to interact about different things happening in Oman.

Miriam Al Farsi (co-admin) and I wanted a platform where we could help people in need, showcase events happening, and also to share news and announcements.”

One of the most active groups in Oman, WHO includes a diverse audience and as it happens in such community groups there is always someone with an answer to a question or even ready to offer a helping hand when required.

“Whether it is a question about a visa problem, where to buy something, offer to drop off some shopping, assist when a car has broken down on the expressway and needing help or that one time where there was a snake in the AC, yes, that question was asked, there is always someone to help,” says Jo.

Of course, there are moments when arguments happen in the group and Jo is the one who often settles the matter. “It can get heated in the group and we often disagree, but all good families fight and argue, right?”

“And at the end of the day, our members are like our family. When times are hard and people need help, we come together as one big family. This is what makes our group stand out as well as it does.”

Jo James

The group has been especially helpful and a relief to many during the last few months with the onset of Covid-19. “A lot of people were at home alone. Some reached out via a private message and others just interacted more in the group —there was someone always available for a chat and to offer words of encouragement, we all needed that from time to time,” elucidates Jo.

Jo and the members of the group have been instrumental in reaching out to people on numerous occasions when help was required. “As a group, we have all come together many, many times and helped with different causes when people have needed help.

We assisted with the stranded workers in Suwaiq; helped a young family who lost a young mum to cancer; purchased a wheelchair; paid school fees, paid medical bills; made bags of useful items to hand out to the labourers, and got food supplies out as far as Sohar and Salalah with the help of group members Manoj Sharma, Prasanth Nair and Kaka Billa who drove around all hours of the day and night to drop off supplies,” shares Jo. WHO also raised over RO13,000 to help those in need during lockdown.

Jo also ensures that the members of WHO have fun through quizzes, contests and online activities quite regularly. “We have had monthly online quizzes during the COVID days and a special online Halloween disco for children. We teamed up with Chris Fisher, our resident quizmaster. We have amazing competitions in the group, and this year we are going large for Oman National Day with a string of competitions over three days. We also have plans for a Christmas extravaganza!”

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