Sultan Al Qasimi Donates USD 1 Million to Fuel Outstanding Humanitarian Efforts of Malaysia’s Dignity for Children Foundation

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Announced during the awarding ceremony of the second Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support

His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah has donated USD 1 million to the Children for Dignity Foundation from Malaysia to fuel their on-going efforts to offer educational and support services to the marginalised and displaced communities in Asia and MENA region.

This came during the honouring ceremony of the second Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support held last evening at the Sharjah Police Science Academy in the presence of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of the Ruler of Sharjah, Chairperson of The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) and UNHCR Eminent Advocate for Refugees, and Filippo Grande, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The prestigious award was given by the Sharjah Ruler to Dignity for Children Foundation from Malaysia, selected for its performance as a leading humanitarian institution in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, providing support and advocacy services to refugees and the displaced, and in recognition for its role and commitment towards thousands of families in Sentul, Malaysia, by providing a safe environment for their children’s education.

The award – a cash prize of AED500,000 ($136,000) and a trophy – were received by Elisha Satvinder and his wife Petrina, founders of Children for Dignity Foundation.

The foundation was honoured with the prestigious international award in recognition of its outstanding contribution and philanthropic efforts over the past two decades in caring and supporting refugees and investing in younger generations by providing them with the necessary resources to pursue their academic education to become active partners in changing the reality of their communities. Since its very early beginnings, 20 years ago, the Malaysian foundation has immensely focused on education as instrumental in fighting poverty and overcoming the harsh realities of life.

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Congratulating Dignity for Children for winning the award, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi stressed that the value of humanitarian work lies in its neutrality, continuity and impact – the core values that have echoed in the Foundation’s efforts for the past 20 years, as they have worked relentlessly to save the lives of displaced children and refugees from ignorance and poverty, and given them not just educational opportunities, but have also helped them find opportunities to use that education to seek employment and contribute to their communities.

Her Highness said: “Illuminating the path of others is a human duty and an ethical imperative. Without this effort, life will not have any meaning. The importance of Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support is that helps bring these human torches, who work for a better present and a brighter future, before the eyes of the world. The award highlights the stories of individuals who have suffered the conditions of forced migration, and celebrates the relentless efforts of those individuals and organisations who lead them towards happy and safe lives, overcoming the past and look with hope towards a better future.”

During his keynote address, Filippo Grande, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, stressed on the importance of the award in its celebration of the great humanitarian contributions of individuals and organisations who have dedicated their lives to offering a better future to the most marginalised groups in the world; people who are living in refugee camps because they cannot return to their homes.

Grande thanked Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi for her leading humanitarian efforts, and huge support to various foundations active in offering lifesaving and rehabilitation services to the internally displaced and refugees, pointing out that her leadership in the field has enabled the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to offer support to over 800,000 refugees around the world.

He also said that this celebration comes at the right time, and offers a glimpse of hope to over 70 million refugees around the world today, most of who belong to Middle Eastern and Asian nations like Syria, Yemen, Malaysia, and others.

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In his speech, Elisha Satvinder, Co-founder of Dignity for Children Foundation, outlined the foundation’s long journey in humanitarian action for refugees and the displaced. He spoke about his and his wife’s personal experiences while teaching a young Rohingya refugee, Mohammed Yaseen, 12 years old when they met. This boy and many others couldn’t write their names or read, but the education they received from the Satvinders has taken them to universities.

He said: “Our work started as an informal place for education and learning, and over the past 20 years blossomed into the largest and most comprehensive education centre for refugee children in Southeast Asia. Every year, we welcome around 900 refugee children to be educated under our roof. Dignity’s education programme is equipped with world-class Montessori classrooms for the preschool and primary students, and offers the Cambridge-syllabus to the secondary students.

“At Dignity, every child has the right to quality education, and our goal is to offer world-class training to the underprivileged. In the words of Montessori, ‘Free the child’s potential and you will transform him into the world’, We believe that each child has the potential to grow into a world-changer – people who will impact and change their communities, cities and nations.”

SIARA was established last year by the Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), a Sharjah-based global humanitarian charity dedicated to helping refugees and people in need worldwide, in collaboration with the UNHCR.

A short film on the award, its vision and objectives as well as its achievements since it was established was screened at the event. The award enjoys the generous patronage of His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, and his wife, Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, who doubled the award’s value this year to AED 500,000.

Children for Dignity Foundation also sowed a short documentary encapsulating the its journey, which began in 1998 in the Sentul area of Malaysia, where Satvinder and his wife along with their friends and several advocates of humanitarian issues, joined forces to assist underprivileged community with food, healthcare and education.

They called themselves the ‘Harvest Centre’ in the early years, and under the name started the first Montessori preschool for the underprivileged taking in 30 students in January 2004. As education programme began to grow, primary and secondary education programmes were added.

In 2010, all Harvest Centre-related education projects took on the Dignity for Children Foundation name, which now cater to some 1,100 refugees, stateless people, undocumented students and other marginalised groups that represent the urban poor in Kuala Lumpur.

Apart from offering numerous educational opportunities, the foundation organises the annual Faisal Cup, which is an opportunity for the less fortunate children to learn and develop through sports. In 2017, 2,800 refugee children and youths participated in the Faisal Cup event, which is now in its 12th year running and is a unique model of social empowerment through sports and education.

Dignity for Children’s today prides itself on the graduation of many high calibre graduates, some of whom have received private scholarships for further studies. Some others joined the UNHCR to serve as interpreters and community workers, where they play positive roles in shaping a better future for their nations and contributing back to their communities.

The Sharjah International Award for Refugees Advocacy and Support was launched in 2017 by TBHF — the Sharjah-based global humanitarian charity dedicated to helping refugees and people in need worldwide — in cooperation with the UNHCR. It is awarded to individuals or organisations who implement pioneering and influential initiatives that have had a positive and tangible impact on refugees within Asia and the Mena region.

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