As concepts for philanthropic projects go, the new campaign from Dubai Cares, ‘Thirst for Education’, isn’t immediately obvious. The campaign aims to build wells in schools throughout developing countries, based on the idea that many children are denied access to primary education because they cannot access clean water. Like we said, it’s not an obvious link. But talk to Anas Bukhash, programme manager for Dubai Cares, and you’ll soon be completely convinced.
Bukhash tells Time Out: ‘443 million school days are missed every year because children lack access to clean water sources. Some children can’t attend school because they have to walk three hours a day on average to collect clean water for their families. Most shocking, every 15 seconds a child dies because of illnesses caused by drinking contaminated water.’
OK, so there’s definitely a link. A lack of access to clean water – something that we all take for granted – is a significant barrier to human development in impoverished parts of our world, and, according to Dubai Cares, education is the most important element of human development. ‘A lot of people ask us: “What does education have to do with water?”’ Bukhash reveals. ‘But once you see the statistics, it shows you just how much it affects the primary education of these children and exactly why it’s affecting it.’
The principal objective of ‘Thirst for Education’ is raising the funds to provide clean drinking water to children within schools. ‘Once you do that, you’re tackling the main challenges that children are facing, which is walking long distances for hours and hours to get water rather than going to school, and contaminated water-related diseases,’ says Bukhash.
Removing barriers to education for children in developing countries is at the core of what Dubai Cares does, and is in accordance with the belief of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, that ‘education is the most powerful weapon to break the cycle of poverty’. Bukhash adds: ‘If you provide the children of the world with quality primary education, you are changing a whole generation. These children will grow up to become doctors and engineers, and that changes the whole society. You can say it starts from changing a school to changing a village, to changing a society, to changing a country. So it’s the right way to go and it’s a sustainable way to move forward in changing the world.’
Dubai Cares’s mission to educate kids in developing countries is based around four pillars that affect access to primary schooling. These are health and nutrition; infrastructure; quality of education; and, of course, water and sanitation. Each year the organisation chooses one pillar to give particular focus to, hence the current campaign. ‘We still work on all of the pillars, but we try to become innovative and take the lead on one of them,’ explains Bukhash.
Dubai Cares began taking the lead on this in January, organising a roundtable discussion in New York with various international NGOs and charities. Bukhash says this helped establish the best and most efficient way to approach the issue, borne of all the different organisations’ experience and ideas. There have been follow-up sessions since, and there will be another roundtable in the US before the end of the year. ‘It’s been fantastic, and it shows that we’re really trying to tackle [the issue],’ says Bukhash.
It’s all well and good offering a helping hand to poverty-stricken lands, but how does Dubai Cares choose who to help? What developing nations can be said to need more assistance than others? So far, Dubai Cares has reached four million children in 20 countries worldwide, including Bangladesh, Sudan, Yemen, Nepal and Cambodia. ‘We have selection criteria and we do it on a needs basis,’ Bukhash explains. ‘We focus on providing quality primary education for children – that’s always our vision. So we assess each country according to that. We’re here for children all over the world.’
‘Thirst for Education’ is being launched during Ramadan because it’s a month in which giving and charity are especially highlighted. But for Bukhash, the success of Dubai Cares so far is down to the generosity and compassion of Dubaians all year round. ‘Dubai has so many religions, so many nationalities, yet the beautiful thing about the city is that we’re all unified in our interest to make a difference, to help, to give donations,’ he says. Support ‘Thirst for Education’ and prove him right.
Find out how to donate by visiting www.dubaicares.ae or call 04 330 4444. As little as Dhs30 sponsors one child for an entire year. There are also ‘Thirst for Education’ donation boxes located at 600 different retailers around the UAE.