Dig out your dickie bow: October 28 marks the third annual Big Ball gala fundraising event in Dubai. Founded by local composer and business owner Barry Kirsch (owner of Dubai-based BKP Music) in 2008, past events have proved a big success, and this year’s promises to be no exception.
The slogan for the 2010 ball is ‘Save the Imagination’; how does this tie in with the fundraising theme? ‘Many children’s imaginations are jeopardised by real-life threats: famine, drought, war, poverty and so on,’ explains Barry. ‘Our mission is not to provide what NGOs call ‘first response’ – food, water and medicine – but to contribute and invest in children’s future quality of life and opportunities.’
Last year’s Big Ball raised US$260,000 (Dhs955,000); this time the organisers are hoping to top this figure through ticket sales and a silent auction. Some of the proceeds will go to local art project START, which reaches out to kids with disabilities such as Down’s syndrome and autism. Practising artists volunteer to coach the kids in their creative endeavours, which are later exhibited in a show. ‘With each class, you watch them grow,’ says START coordinator Nicola Lee. ‘You see the affect the workshops have on their self-confidence and their ability to express themselves in forms that they’ve not been able to before.’
Many schools in the UAE don’t offer art as part of their curriculum, but START believes it is an integral part of self-discovery. ‘I like having one volunteer that helps me,’ says 14-year-old Sara Alam, who is deaf and has a language processing disorder. ‘They always encourage me and praise the work I create. I love the activities we do; it’s different to what I do at school.’
Rashid, another pupil at START, has been attending for two years. ‘When he first started the classes, he didn’t talk or make conversation – he was hyperactive and made sounds and actions to communicate,’ says Nicola. ‘Now he’s a lot calmer, more verbal, and uses colour, textures and brush marks to express himself.’
Some of The Big Ball’s donations will also go towards Unicef’s child-to-child radio project in Mozambique, which allows thousands of kids to turn on the radio to listen to 16-year-old presenter Paulo Manjate. For an hour each day, listeners can participate in contests, hear their favourite music and receive advice on matters that concern them, including hard-hitting subjects such as child abuse, AIDS, health and education. ‘Our programme is important because it allows us to communicate with other children about our rights,’ explains Paulo.
Martha Áurea da Silva, an 18-year-old Mozambican, helps to run the radio station; she explains that more than 70 per cent of local residents live in rural areas with large households, no formal employment and low
socio-economic living conditions. Households survive on farming maize and vegetables. ‘The completion rate in primary school for boys is higher than for girls,’ says Martha. ‘This is because girls tend to drop out as a result of early marriage, pregnancy, or because they have to look after their young siblings and do domestic chores.’ The child-to-child radio programme reaches not only children, but the larger community, helping girls to enroll and keep attending school.
Want to do your bit? The event here in Dubai is targeted at media industries, but is open to all. ‘We look at our audience and we try to find something that will inspire and resonate with them, something that they can contribute to in more than simply a financial sense,’ says Barry.
On the night…
1 The Big Ball’s guest of honour will be best-selling Middle Eastern artist Elissa.
2 There will also be goodwill video messages from celebrities including Bob Geldof and British chef Antony Worrall-Thompson.
3 Entertainment will be provided by Colombian singer/songwriter Fatiniza, plus a performance from Australian ‘unusualist’ (comic, ventriloquist, shadow puppeteer and magician) Raymond Crowe.
4 There will also be a jazz band, plenty of food and drink and a live auction held by top charity auctioneer Charlie Ross.