With a nod to the altruistic aspect of Ramadan, Time Out contacted Patricia Anderson from Dubai-based adventure charity Gulf for Good for some helpful suggestions on fun ways to give something back.
Who and what is Gulf for Good?
Whether it’s getting fit, having fun or going somewhere exciting and doing something worthwhile at the same time, this UAE-licensed, UK-registered charity has the answer. Founded in 2001 under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Gulf for Good’s adventure challenges raise money for handpicked children’s charities around the world. So far, 38 challenges in 21 countries involving over 800 participants aged 14 to 72, have raised over $1.9 million, which has been donated to tangible and carefully thought-out projects in the challenge host countries. Some of the projects we’ve funded include building schools in Tanzania, Peru, Jordan, Oman and Ethiopia; hospitals in Nepal and Haiti; orphanages in Thailand, Cambodia, Mongolia and Egypt; mobile hospitals in Indian slums, and much more. Gulf for Good’s fantastic challenges make a huge difference to peoples’ lives. Obviously, the thousands of children who receive the funds benefit enormously, but doing the challenge itself often turns out to be a life-changing experience for many participants.
We understand one of your four main objectives is to bring Gulf nationals and residents together for good causes. Since 2001, how has this evolved?
Over our 11 years of operation, we have had participants from 41 nationalities, including a great many Emiratis and other Arab nationals. On our last challenge, hiking the remote and wild sections of the Great Wall of China, we had 23 participants from 12 different nationalities, including Emirati, Kuwaiti, Jordanian, Syrian and Bahraini. From the photographs and their feedback, it’s wonderful to see how well they got to know each other. They’ve formed life-long friendships.
What countries are you currently working with outside the UAE?
We are always working with charities in many different countries at all times – following through with building projects supported by past Gulf for Good challenges, finalising details of current schemes and researching potential projects for the future. It’s a time-consuming yet incredibly rewarding process.
It appears that philanthropy is inherent to Islamic culture, particularly during Ramadan. Is this something you’ve experienced and have you found that it also inspires non-Muslims?
The concept that one can take on a physical personal challenge that can help thousands of children who are less fortunate than ourselves is universal. We’re delighted that it’s an idea which inspires people from all nations, creeds and walks of life. They work together for a great cause and all come away richer in spirit (and in health).
How do you choose which projects to support and how can people get involved?
We have one member of the Gulf for Good voluntary Board of Governors who is solely responsible for hand-picking the best children’s charities to support through each challenge. She has a tough job because the charity has to be in the region of the challenge, as we always take the participants to see for themselves the great work each charity is doing. Additionally, she has a strict set of checks and measures that must be met by each charitable organisation we support. They must prove that they are professionally run and well managed, and they must have a capital project which requires funding. We will only fund something that is tangible – building a school, hospital etc. Wherever possible, we try to work with a charity with which we have established a relationship. Otherwise, we look for leads from numerous sources, including recommendations from other charities, our local ground handlers, schools, local Rotary or Lions clubs and, of course, pure research. Short-listed charities are required to submit full project proposals with detailed estimates of cost and proof of capability to implement. Once approved and prior to the challenge itself, we require the charity to submit an itemised project estimate, certified by an independent party.
Do you have any exciting plans for the near future?
Around this time every year, we announce the challenges we have lined up for the following year. It’s a very exciting time and we have many people asking for a sneak preview, as they want to plan their year, arranging holidays and annual leave around a Gulf for Good challenge. We’ll be making the formal announcement about 2013 very soon, but I can confirm that our challenges will take us to Vietnam, Cambodia, Peru, India and hopefully Palestine. So keep your diaries free and check the website – www.gulf4good.org – for more details.