Autism Rocks founder Sanjay Shah speaks to us about Sheikh Hamdan, Blended festival and working with Prince again
Joss Stone, Lenny Kravitz and Drake have all performed to help raise awareness for his cause and now British philanthropist Sanjay Shah - whose son’s diagnosis lead to sharpened focus and inception of the charity Autism Rocks – is hoping to get another huge name involved.
After hearing about Sheikh Hamdan donating his Dubai World Cup winnings to the Dubai Autism Center, Sanjay was touched.
“This is a very kind and generous gesture from the Crown Prince,” he told Time Out Dubai online. “As well as providing much needed funding the act also drives international awareness in association with the grandest race day in the world and helps publicise the work that the Dubai Autism Center does.”
Now Sheikh Hamdan is his priority in terms of big names he is hoping to support his own initiative and generally believes well-known personalities – like Prince who helped raise funds with his recent Pacha gig - are helpful in achieving his goal with the charity?
“We haven't approached anyone yet [since getting Prince on board] but Sheikh Hamdan is on top of the list due to his existing support of autism awareness,” Sanjay revealed. “By engaging well-known figures, we aim to maximise the publicity to our cause. Awareness is our key focus and overall goal internationally, in turn charitable donations follow.”
However while waiting to see what icons can do to help raise awareness, Sanjay suggests that everyone in Dubai does their part to spread the word.
“Simple fund-raising activities such as a local sponsored walks can be highly effective, activations like this are easy to organise and promote particularly using social media platforms,” he shared. “Parents can speak to their children's schools about organising activities and be creative with fun engaging ideas. Additionally, residents can also donate directly to local charities including the Dubai Autism Center and Al Noor Centre.”
He added that the UAE could do more to educate residents about what autism is and what the options are with monitoring a child’s health. Sanjay added that the internet could play a massive part in that.
“In my opinion, this region is behind Europe and the US when it comes to information about autism although this improving each year,” he said. “Parents should be provided with information about symptoms and therapy options [by health professionals]. Information should be provided via the usual media channels to the general public as nearly everyone knows someone whose life is affected by autism. Articles such as this one are a great example.”
Their next event in Dubai is Blended festival on April 30 and May 1 at the Dubai Media City Amphitheatre. Plus the team is planning more concerts for after summer and they’re excited that Prince has also told them he would love to perform again.
“The artists we have collaborated with are in regular contact, especially Prince,” he told us. “The reaction has really been overwhelming, we see great benefits from the concerts that we are organising and awareness being brought to the cause. We have seen major increases in donations as well as enquiries from people affected by autism and artists looking to get involved.”
His five-year-old son Nikhil was diagnosed with the condition in 2011 but he has no idea of the fuss that’s being made to help him and many others.
“Unfortunately due to a Nikhil's Autism, he isn't aware at all about what we are doing for the cause,” Sanjay admitted. “We hope one day in the future his condition will improve and he will get to learn about what we have been doing.”