Sheikh Sultan addresses during a virtual event held to honour the winner of the fifth annual Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support.
"Sharjah is committed to supporting refugees around the world by extending a strong and reliable helping hand reflected in several sustainable humanitarian programmes that mirror the ethos of our cultural project," said His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, during a virtual event held to honour the winner of the fifth annual Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support (SIARA 2021).
Sheikh Sultan addresses during the virtual event. WAM
"Sharjah will always be steadfast with building on the values of cooperation and partnership to create a world where love and justice will always prevail. In our religion, as in our Arab culture, standing by the vulnerable and people in need is a duty, not a choice. It is also a daily responsibility and not a sporadic reaction," the Sharjah Ruler continued at the virtually-held awarding ceremony of SIARA’s 2021 edition organised by The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), a Sharjah-based global humanitarian charity, in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and held on Sunday, which is marked globally as World Refugee Day — an annual observance designed to honour refugees from around the world.
The event witnessed the participation of Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mariam Al Hammadi, Director, TBHF and senior officials.
At the awarding ceremony, which was facilitated by renowned Arab media personality, Maysoon Azzam, His Highness noted: "Undoubtedly, we share these religious and cultural values with all nations and cultures worldwide because helping the less fortunate is a core human value rooted in every culture, and are close to the hearts of all individuals. This leads us to discussing the significance of humanitarian institutions who have been successful in consolidating their intent, energies and capabilities to design sustainable projects that have changed the lives of thousands... even millions of refugees and needy people worldwide."
Refugee girls smile in a camp for internally displaced people. File / WAM
One such entity on which SIARA turned the spotlight on this year with its Dhs500,000 ($136,000) cash prize is RefuSHE, a Nairobi-based humanitarian agency founded in 2008 to address the significant, unmet need for child and girl-focused refugee services in Kenya.
Reiterating the fact that by extending support to those in need, communities ultimately create a bright future for all, Sheikh Sultan opined: "Societies are shaped by values, and people’s actions determine what these values are. Those who carry out good deeds and sincerely help those in need, contribute to shaping a culture of empathy, compassion and cohesion in their communities. Based on this tenet, humanitarian organisations deserve every bit of society’s support and must be provided everything they need to execute key humanitarian programmes and initiatives. It is because these entities open the door of hope for the forcibly displaced and are a trusted place for anyone seeking to carry out humanitarian work."
RefuSHE’s leading contributions in child and girl-focused refugee development highlighted by SIARA 2021 as COVID-19 leaves them more vulnerable than ever
The onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a severe impact on children, girls and women whose challenges and hardships have further intensified in the wake of a global public health crises. It is in light of these altered circumstances that the SIARA selection committee has chosen a girl- and woman-centric humanitarian organisation from Kenya, ‘RefuSHE’ to honour at SIARA 2021.
RefuSHE has supported over 5,000 direct beneficiaries, and around 20,000 beneficiaries in all, including the children of some refugees. Several among them have been resettled in countries like US and Canada.
Filippo Grandi: TBHF has done tremendous work in providing life-saving assistance to refugees and host communities during times of crises
Filippo Grandi speaks during the event.
Highlighting the plight of the more than 80 million refugees and IDPs who currently require protection and assistance, Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said: "The SIARA ceremony not only allows us to reflect on their struggles and successes but also presents an opportunity to highlight the contributions of individuals and organizations who have dedicated their lives and their work to helping the world’s forcibly displaced."
I am pleased to be alongside Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of TBHF, and the UNHCR Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children," he added noting that under Sheikha Jawaher’s leadership, TBHF has done tremendous work in providing life-saving assistance to refugees and host communities during times of crises.
"In 2020 alone, TBHF responded with crucial aid in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Beirut blast, and the floods in Sudan. This year, TBHF was again amongst the first to respond to the devastating fire in the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh," Grandi further noted.
Noting that the pandemic has had a particularly devastating effect on women and girls, the UNHCR official said it was fitting that SIARA 2021 has been awarded to Kenya’s RefuSHE, an organisation built on the principle that every young woman deserves an opportunity. "Their holistic programmes which seek to provide opportunities to refugee girls and promote their wellbeing at every level is crucial especially now during these times," he concluded as he extended his sincere congratulations to the non-profit.
Mariam Al Hammadi: Everyone, regardless of their circumstances, has a right to live with dignity.
The Big Heart Foundation Director, Mariam Al Hammadi, noted that the hundreds of entries SIARA receives every year from remarkable organisations worldwide, each with a story worth honouring and supporting, makes the selection process for TBHF rather tough.
Mariam Al Hammadi.
She added: "At SIARA, we firmly believe that outstanding humanitarian action is one that not only supports people, but also hones their talents and capabilities, helping them turn their dreams into tangible achievements despite the challenges they face. Hence, it is with great pleasure that we have chosen RefuSHE from Kenya as the winner of the fifth edition of the SIARA Award."
The non-profit’s "exceptional journey has brought hope to the lives of thousands of girls and women. It has empowered them with education, moral support and all the necessary tools to facilitate their transformation from refugees into engaged, productive members of their community", she further noted, adding, "this award is the least we can do to express our appreciation of RefuSHE’s outstanding efforts, and to ensure the sustainability of its impact. They have managed to open a window of hope in these dark times - hope that everyone, regardless of their circumstances, has a right to live with dignity, and that it can be achieved, with God's grace and human effort.”
For the 2021 edition of SIARA, the selection process was supported and enhanced by a Selection Committee comprising TBHF and UNHCR representatives; Professor Kevin Mitchel, Chancellor of the American University of Sharjah; and Petrina Shee, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Dignity for Children Foundation, past winner of SIARA. Al Hammadi thanked the committee for facilitating the selection process of the winner and the special grantees through their careful screening and review of all 213 nominations this year.
An elated Geoffrey Thige, CEO of "RefuSHE" accepted the Dhs500,000 ($136,000) SIARA award and TBHF-NAMA special grant of $100,000 on behalf of RefuSHE, and said: "We are all ecstatic that after so many years of caring for refugees, we have been able to turn the spotlight on our efforts on a prestigious global platform. I am excited that organisations like TBHF and UNHCR are supporting humanitarian work for refugees. Thank you for bringing us and the work we do every day into the limelight."
Tumaini Letu, a non-profit organisation based at the Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi, Africa, and founded by refugee poet and artist Trésor Nzengu Mpauni was announced as the winner of the Dhs500,000 award at the 4th edition of SIARA.
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