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28 May 2023

Sheikh Mohammed honours Arab Hope Makers

By Wam

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum launched the second edition of the Arab Hope Makers initiative in February 2018 with an announcement on his social media accounts, offering a unique job opening within his team for a salary of AED1 million. The criteria included Arab nationality, experience in humanitarian and community work, and a positive outlook on life. His Highness's announcement received an overwhelming response among the Arab community and gained wide engagement on various social media platforms.

Within a month of its launch, the initiative received more than 87,000 applications from across the Arab world, a remarkable increase from 65,000 entries in 2017.

The participants were subjected to several qualification rounds before 15 hope makers reached the semifinals in Dubai. The candidates presented their initiatives and achievement in detail before the jury selected the five finalists.

The qualification process applied special selection criteria including: The impact of the initiative on the community and its ability to effectively reach the target segment; Innovation and creativity; The hope maker’s commitment to the success of the initiative and willingness to invest the utmost effort towards it; The sustainability of the initiative, its future prospects, and its ability to expand its reach to the largest possible number of beneficiaries; The potential of the initiative to be replicated in communities facing similar challenges and serve as a model that can be adopted on a wider geographical and social scale.

Here is a detailed look at the five hope makers that reached the finals.

Fares Ali – the Noble Knight Battling Hunger Hunger, a demeaning state that weakens the body and humiliates the soul, is this Arab Hope Maker’s adversary. Fares Ali, from Sudan, one day came across a hungry student collecting breadcrumbs, initially meant to feed sheep, and eating them herself. This sight left an indelible mark on his heart.

Famine is not a rare phenomenon in Sudan – thousands of children and adolescents across villages come home from school hungry. They leave their homes in the morning without having had breakfast, without even a sandwich for lunch, and spend their days in class barely able to comprehend a few words from the lesson. This was when Fares had asked the key question that prompted him on his journey: How do you expect a child to create and achieve on an empty stomach? That was approximately eight years ago. Fares got his mother to prepare sandwiches at home, encouraging the community around him to follow suit. He would collect all the food in his car and distribute it among the children in the classrooms. That is how Food for Education began.

Wanting to feed more than just schoolchildren, Fares also set out to fill the empty stomachs of street children that had left their homes and schools due to extreme poverty. He helped them integrate back into society, especially return to school, with a strong belief that education will help them succeed in life.

Having started with 20 sandwiches a day, Fares now provides daily snacks to more than 35,000 students across 132 schools. Despite the harsh conditions prevalent in the country, the initiative, run by an umbrella team set up by Fares, has attracted a growing number of volunteers that wish to contribute to the development of a better nation.

In the eight years since its inception, Food for Education has provided more than 40 million free snacks for schoolchildren. Fares and his team of 1,200 volunteers have also successfully supplied clean drinking water to 100 schools. With the help of humanitarian organisations, they have also carried out maintenance work in around 20 schools and established a free open-air school adjacent to the team’s headquarters in Khartoum.

Thanks to Fares and his team, the children of Sudan wake up excited to learn, hurrying to school, with ambitions and dreams, safe in the knowledge that they will not go hungry today.

Nawal Mostafa – the Advocate for Female Inmates and their Children More than a quarter of a century ago, young journalist Nawal Mostafa visited Qanater Prison for Women in Qanater, Egypt, for an investigative piece she was writing with the aim of uncovering the dire circumstances of the inmates. She was not expecting to be welcomed to the yard by a group of newborn babies, who were technically imprisoned with their mothers because there was no one else to take them in. This single glimpse changed her life’s journey, and that of thousands of women.

Nawal sat with the prisoners, most of whom were detained for accumulating debts they were unable to pay off, and listened to their stories. More than a few of them were pregnant, others had already given birth inside the penitentiary.

Things often deteriorated even further after the inmates paid their dues or served their sentences, leaving the prison to enter a society that rejected them and discriminated against them. Nawal felt destined to take up these women’s and children’s cause. In collaboration with the Prison Services Department, she established an internal center to educate the inmates and teach them handicrafts that would later help them earn an income.

To address the pressing needs of the inmates’ children, she established the Prisoners’ Children Care Association with the aim of raising awareness about their struggle of growing up inside a prison, helping to care for them, and seeing through procedures to issue their birth certificates.

Nawal sustains her cause through raising funds for women prisoners and leading campaigns that facilitate their reintegration into society. Her initiatives include an incubator for female ex-convicts that teaches them skills such as sewing and embroidery that can help them provide for their families.

To date, Nawal has contributed to freeing 1,000 prisoners of debt, launching more than 1,000 small projects for former inmates, and training 500 ex-convicts in professions that would help them regain their self-confidence.

Her humanitarian achievements include providing continuous in-kind assistance to more than 2,500 families of prisoners, as well as contributing to the treatment of 500 children of prisoners and putting 500 children through school. In addition, her initiatives and awareness campaigns have helped bring about a momentous change in the lives of female prisoners, inside and outside prison walls.

Manal Al Musallam – Making Hope from Pain Life taught Kuwait-based Manal Al Musallam how to find hope even in the most tragic circumstances. On a beachside holiday in 2013, Manal, also known as Umm Dana, had to unexpectedly cope with the death of her five-year-old daughter Dana, in a swimming accident.

Her tears generated a hope in the heart of Umm Dana, who decided to look beyond her personal loss. She went on to establish the Dana Volunteer Team to help displaced Syrians, within and outside Syria, by distributing relief aid, such as food, healthcare supplies, tents, clothes, and blankets.

To date, the team has organised five voluntary relief campaigns, benefitting more than 340,000 displaced Syrians, under the name ‘Hopeful Soul’. Through distributing more than 330,000 food baskets, the team has directly supported 5,000 children, provided the healthcare needs of more than 82,000 patients, and impacted over 52,000 families.

Hope maker Manal believes that she is keeping her daughter’s memory alive with the smile her team puts on every child’s face.

Mahmoud Wahid – Saving Human Dignity Walking down the streets of Cairo in 2014, Mahmoud Wahid, a young Egyptian, was not prepared for the scene he witnessed - of a man sleeping on the sidewalk, dressed in shabby clothes, his body scarred and disfigured with severe wounds and infested with worms. Young Mahmoud was unable to forget the incident. Not willing to just pass by the man without helping him in some way, Mahmoud decided to take him to a hospital. This was not an easy task. Finding a hospital to admit a homeless man, and more so, finding an old age home to accommodate an elderly person with no documents to his name, proved to be a huge challenge.

That very day, Mahmoud decided to act to make a difference. Looking further, he came upon several similar stories of homeless senior citizens who found themselves on the streets, without a roof over their heads, with no beds to sleep on, and beset by illness. Unless they were fortunate to find someone to help them, they died, succumbing to starvation, sickness, or even despair.

With the help of some friends and acquaintances, and through individual donations and the contribution of several volunteers, Mahmoud Wahid founded Together to Save a Human, a shelter to care for the elderly and homeless. The shelter rescues people in need off the streets and provides them with all forms of medical and psychological care. They are later supported in finding employment, or even in searching for their families, should they wish to do so.

Since the launch of the Together to Save a Human foundation three years ago, Mahmoud runs two shelter homes, and is currently working to open a third one. In this period, the Foundation has assisted more than 1,000 homeless people, mostly senior citizens, by sheltering them, attending to their medical needs, helping to bring some of them back to their families, or even following up on the status of their family members who have left.

Mahmoud today works with a group of young volunteers, and is ably supported by an army of 250,000 volunteers on social media, helping him reach out to the homeless and providing him with information about them and their families. The Foundation also includes supervisors and nurses who monitor the health and well-being of the inmates 24 x7. The elderly receive specialized psychological care and medical attention, with a psychiatrist making house calls once a week. Furthermore, a dedicated team of physiotherapists and doctors across specialisations, routinely follow up on the general health of the senior citizens.

Hope maker Mahmoud Wahid has helped preserve the human dignity of those he rescued. His ambition is to grow his philanthropic project to accommodate all homeless people so that no Egyptian ever needs to sleep on the streets again.

Siham Jarjees – From beauty queen to queen of hearts Although over 75-years-old, Siham Jarjees works with the enthusiasm and energy associated with young people, and has dedicated her life to the service of others. Baghdad-based Siham was crowned Miss Iraq in the early 1960s, and is nostalgic about her younger days spent in Iraq. However, Iraq today is severely troubled, and Siham decided to act and not allow her country and her people to suffer without any assistance.

This self-starter, with the help of other benefactors and volunteers with whom she regularly communicates, today actively runs dozens of initiatives and humanitarian campaigns to alleviate the suffering of her compatriots. She organises relief campaigns to distribute aid to the needy and displaced in many camps across Iraq, especially in Mosul and Anbar. The relief aid includes the distribution of food packages, clothing, medicines, cribs, water coolers in summer and heaters in winter.

Siham documents all of the humanitarian activities and initiatives she endorses on her social media accounts. She is also personally committed to overseeing the distribution of the aid, carefully monitoring the well-being of the displaced people, who now welcome her warmly, awaiting the aid that she provides them. Today, she has made a name for herself in the hearts of children, women and men in a country that has been battle-scarred.

Hope maker Siham resides in the UAE where she has lived with her family since 2005, finding in her new life an opportunity to extend bridges of hope and generosity to her home country that she has never forgotten. To date, Siham has contributed through her projects and initiatives to alleviate the suffering of more than 100,000 people. In addition, she has through donations, also covered the healthcare costs of more than 200 patients suffering from serious diseases such as cancer, kidney failure, and liver disease, within and outside Iraq.

Siham has facilitated the construction and renovation of more than 15 orphanages and homes for widows, in addition to building classrooms for children with special needs and autism. She has helped set up a sewing factory in one of the camps for displaced Iraqi refugees and has also personally taken on the care of 75 young orphans. Realising the urgent need to make people earn sustainable livelihoods, she established small shops within these camps for widows to sell food and essential products.

While giving to those in need is not easy for Siham, she does not despair and insists on continuing to provide hope, reiterating that she has laid down her life to serve her country and her people.

The Hope Makers initiative is the largest of its kind to honor the champions of giving in the Arab world, spreading hope, optimism, and positivity in society. The initiative aims to recognise individuals, volunteer teams, and humanitarian and charitable non-profit organisations from across the Arab world that work to leverage all available, albeit often limited resources for the good of mankind without expectations of reward or gratitude. Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives holds 33 humanitarian institutions, executing 1400 philanthropic projects in 116 countries, benefiting more than 130 million people in the Middle East and the whole world.