The eighth Oil Barons Ball will be Dubai's charity party of the year
Think red carpet, a glamour-filled room of successful, affluent individuals (who all give to charity), international entertainment and guests tucking into a silver-service banquet, and you’ve got the definitive Oil Barons Ball.
The big bash started as part of the local Excellence in Energy Awards – known as the ‘oil Oscars’ – to celebrate the region’s energy industry, under the backing of UAE Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Obeid Bin Saif Al Nassiri. Now the event is solo and still going strong – it raised Dhs500,000 last year in aid of Friends of Cancer Patients. This year it aims to top that, and will be auctioning off loads of goodies such as business-class return tickets to Paris, a Caribbean cruise, a five-star stay in Ko Samui in Thailand and a two-night stay at Six Senses Zighy Bay resort in Oman.
‘All proceeds from the silent auction go to the Friends of Cancer Patients charity,’ says event creator Eileen Michael. ‘We have five children [suffering from cancer] to whom we grant wishes. The wishes range from getting cars to paying their rent, school fees or gifts such as laptops or PlayStations.’
‘Some patients don’t even have the taxi fare to go to their appointments,’ says Friends of Cancer Patients secretary-general Dr Sawsan Al Madhi. She believes there is a much greater demand for donations since the economic crisis, and says many people get unstuck when it comes to being diagnosed with cancer and covering the treatment on their medical insurance. ‘A lot more people are having problems paying for their treatments,’ she explains. ‘Even if you are insured, some insurance companies won’t pay the full amount. Or they may cover you for the first year, but the following year, when you are still having treatment, they will not let you renew your policy.’ This is where The Oil Barons Ball and Friends of Cancer Patients can really make a difference. The proceeds from the ball help the organisation to pay for food coupons, medical treatment and prosthetic limbs, and sometimes they fly patients abroad for treatment.
Mustafer* (pictured, right), a 10-year-old UAE resident originally from Iraq, was diagnosed with leukaemia when he was just two years old. ‘I had to make the long journey from Sharjah to Al Ain at least once a week for treatment,’ Mustafer tells us. He was chosen as a beneficiary last year, and his family received a car at The Oil Barons Ball to help him make his appointments. ‘I went with my dad to the ball, and I still remember how excited we were. There was a big traffic jam and we had to get out of the taxi and walk there. I was really tired, but we got to drive back to Sharjah in our very own Ford Focus. Our life has changed dramatically since we came to know about The Oil Barons Ball.’
Following his treatment, Mustafer’s cancer is now in remission. Six-year-old UAE national Zahra* was born with the disease. ‘Her condition started to deteriorate immediately after she was born,’ says her mother, Afrah*. ‘Consequently she lost about 1.5kg in weight in just one month.’ The money raised at The Oil Barons Ball paid for Zahra’s school fees for a year and a new laptop so she could study at home. Without this, Afrah believes Zahra’s condition would have worsened. ‘Each and every cancer patient needs support,’ she says. ‘It doesn’t have to be financial aid – even a pat on the shoulder helps. I encourage people to be part of the ball and do something for a good cause. We as humans need to stand next to each other.’