With a nod to the altruistic aspect of Ramadan, we speak to Tariq Al Gurg, CEO of Dubai Cares, to learn more about the philanthropic organisation and ways to get involved.
What is Dubai Cares and who is behind the organisation?
Dubai Cares is a philanthropic organisation working to improve children’s access to quality primary education in developing countries. Launched in September 2007 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the organisation is led by a board of directors composed of nine members and its Chairperson, Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State.
What is the vision of Dubai Cares?
Dubai Cares’ vision is to break the cycle of poverty by ensuring all children have access to quality primary education. Education is the most effective tool to break the cycle of poverty, a belief held by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and it was with this belief and the desire to give children – regardless of their nationality, creed or religion – the opportunity to become positive contributors to society, that His Highness launched Dubai Cares.
How does the organisation aim to achieve these goals?
Dubai Cares’ mission is realised by a two-pronged holistic strategic approach that focuses on: increasing enrolment and retention of children through integrated School Health & Nutrition programmes, which include school feeding, deworming and water, sanitation and hygiene activities in schools; and supporting the drive for quality provision and learning outcomes by supporting integrated Quality of Education & Learning programmes that focus on early childhood education, teacher training, literacy, numeracy and learning domains. In this endeavour, we identify the right partners, which include UN aid agencies such as UNICEF and UNRWA and internationally recognised NGOs such as Save the Children and Oxfam, to implement our programmatic interventions in beneficiary countries. In order to identify programme opportunities, Dubai Cares assesses the needs of local communities and designs interventions that produce immediate and long-term impact in the lives of children and their communities. To ensure programme sustainability, we also build the capacities of local NGOs, government staff and civil societies.
We have invested heavily in developing innovative partnership models that not only promote enhanced programme delivery, but also institutional and sectoral learning. We see ourselves as a flexible and catalytic organisation that supports the development and testing of alternative models in order to answer key local policy questions, as well as contribute to the global body of knowledge through the use of rigorous monitoring, evaluation and learning practices.
What countries and projects is Dubai Cares involved with?
Dubai Cares currently reaches more than eight million children in 31 developing countries. These include Bangladesh Pakistan, Nepal and Indonesia in Asia and Angola, Mali, Mauritania and Ethiopia in Africa, to name a few. In the region, Dubai Cares has programmes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and has also worked with Palestinian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon. Recently, Dubai Cares also launched a new three-year integrated Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) pilot programme in Ethiopia, which is being implemented in 30 schools to address the health and nutrition needs of approximately 30,700 primary school-age children in the Southern Nations and Nationalities Peoples’ Region (SNNPR). The Dhs14.7 million Dubai Cares-funded programme aims to enhance primary school enrolment rates, reduce absenteeism and improve the cognitive learning abilities of the children.
How do you choose which projects to support?
Dubai Cares prioritises its aid towards the worlds’ least developed countries based on the United Nation Statistics Division, focusing on both basic and education indicators including, but not limited to: Human Development Index (HDI) by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Extreme poverty incidence, improved sanitation facilities, malnutrition prevalence, net school enrolment rate in primary school, primary school attendance ratio, parity index girls/boys in primary school, and literacy rate.
Dubai Cares also leverages its strong network of partners, comprising of internationally recognised and reputed aid and development organisations, which have on-ground presence in several developing countries. On-ground realities can be quite different, especially in certain developing countries that are socially or politically unstable, and hence we also closely review every country report that we receive from our partners and use them as one of the references when launching new programmes or up-scaling existing ones.
In what ways can people get involved and contribute?
We recognise the potential of communities in the UAE to affect positive change around the world, and view local communities as important partners in our mission to improve access to quality primary education for millions of children. For the Ramadan campaign this year, Dubai Cares has established a number of donation channels through which the UAE community can contribute:
• A point of sale item will be displayed at check-out stands in participating retailers, where customers can add Dhs5 or more to their purchase to support the Dubai Cares campaign
• Donors can text the word ‘donation’ to 9030 to donate Dhs30 and to 9090 to donate Dhs90
• Online donations can be made through our website, www.dubaicares.ae/en/donation
• Direct financial donations can be made with a cheque addressed to Dubai Cares
• Donations can be left in boxes placed in different locations throughout Dubai
• Visitors to Dubai Cares’ stand at The Dubai Mall are engaged in an activity in support of providing education to children in developing countries
In order to increase community involvement around the year, Dubai Cares also engages with UAE residents through a series of volunteer, awareness and fundraising initiatives. In 2008, we launched our ‘Volunteer Emirates’ initiative, which is part of a series of local initiatives by Dubai Cares that offer UAE residents opportunities to give back to communities here at home by renovating and enriching the educational environment for the students in non-profit schools. Since then, hundreds of volunteers have participated in our initiative and have contributed to enriching the learning environment for thousands of children in the UAE.
Another key local community engagement initiative for Dubai Cares is the ‘Walk for Education’, which also has an extremely important volunteering element. This annual walk aims to raise awareness among the participants and the community about the issues concerning children’s access to primary education globally. It symbolises the hardships that children in developing countries endure on a daily basis, by walking an average of 3km in order to go to school.
It appears philanthropy is inherent to Islamic culture, particularly during Ramadan. Is this something you have experienced? and have you found it also inspires non-Muslims?
The UAE has always had a very active approach in philanthropy and this focus has been set by the leadership of the UAE, which has inspired the community to do their bit for the underprivileged. This emphasis on philanthropy transcends the multicultural community of the UAE and we at Dubai Cares owe our success to the overwhelming support of the community as a whole.
The spirit of philanthropy during Ramadan is a universal one and I have personally witnessed this over the years with the UAE community coming together to help the less fortunate. The spirit of giving prevalent is truly inspiring and it has definitely made an impression on the non-Muslim community as well, from my experience.
During Ramadan this year, we will have an ongoing campaign titled, ‘End Poverty. Educate Now’, which is in line with UN MDG 1 of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. The campaign aims to raise awareness about the challenges that children face in accessing quality primary education.
Do you have any exciting plans for the future?
Our focus at present is to do our bit on a global stage to deliver integrated evidence-based primary education programmes through strategic partnerships to create impact in the lives of underprivileged children globally.
From an awareness perspective, as a member of the Technical Advisory Group of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s ‘Global Education First Initiative’, Dubai Cares will be advocating for quality education to become a primary focus on the agendas of local and national governments as well as aid organisations worldwide. Dubai Cares is the only organisation from the Middle East that has been selected to be part of the Technical Advisory Group and Subgroup on Advocacy and Communications for the five-year initiative.
Dubai Cares is also a key member of the Learning Metrics Task Force (LMTF). The LMTF was convened by the Brookings Institute and UNESCO to ensure learning becomes a central component of the global development agenda, in line with the ‘Global Education First Initiative’. Following the first LMTF meeting held in New York in September 2012, Dubai Cares hosted the second LMTF meeting in Dubai (February 2013) to identify common learning goals to improve learning opportunities for children and youths across the world.
At an operational level, we will continue to run various fundraising initiatives through partnerships with the private and public sectors to be able to achieve a greater impact in the lives of children in developing countries. We will also be launching additional School Health & Nutrition programmes as well as Quality of Education & Learning programmes in developing countries.
In the UAE, we will continue to focus on our awareness campaigns through activities such as Walk for Education, as well as through communications to highlight the importance of child education. We also aim to maximise our community engagement platform and conduct more local initiatives that engage more volunteers and supporters.
With millions of children still without access to primary education across the world, in both the short and long term, we want to ensure that we reach out to as many children as possible so that an entire generation of youngsters have a chance of a better life.
For more information on Dubai Cares, and to volunteer, visit www.dubaicares.ae.