“When you are driven by a deep love and passion for what you do, there is no telling what you can achieve.” – Borrowed.
This sentiment proved to be particularly true of Ms Amal Al Redha, the meticulous, articulate and business savvy fundraising manager, of the philanthropic organisation, Dubai Cares.
Amal graduated from Zayed University armed with a bachelor’s degree in business with a specialisation in marketing. Shortly after graduating, she signed on to be part of the fundraising team for Dubai Cares in 2007. This campaign was launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.
As she shares with me why she enjoys working at Dubai Cares, their successes and what she envisions for the organisation going forward, it is very easy to see her passion, tenacity and love for her job, shining through.
Tell us a bit about Dubai Cares.
Dubai Cares is a philanthropic organisation that was launched by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum with the mandate of providing children in developing countries with access to quality primary education. When we first started it was just a fundraising campaign. We were however, surprised and inspired by the overwhelming support that we received from the UAE community; schools, universities, corporations, and individuals.
This led to the decision to transform the initial campaign into a more sustainable organisation. Our initial target was to reach one million children around the world. Over the past 7 years, we have exceeded that number. Currently, Dubai Cares is reaching more than 10 million children in 35 developing countries.
What countries does Dubai Cares work in?
Dubai Cares designs and funds programmes in Africa, South East Asia, the Middle East and Haiti. The organisation partners with UN agencies such as UNICEF and other international NGOs such as Save the Children, which are currently working on the ground and have vast experience in the implementation of our programmes.
Who was your favourite teacher and why?
Let me first say that I have respect for all my teachers. However, there was one teacher that actually touched my life. It was my Mathematics teacher from Grade 4-7. I was very sad when she left. She was my favourite teacher, because she took time to help me when I was struggling with the subject. She supported me academically and emotionally. She gave me that push to develop the confidence I needed to think critically and to approach the subject using different skills. She is the reason I advanced in Mathematics.
What are some of the ways in which educators in the UAE can help with the development of education in developing countries?
We are very fortunate that we have a pool of teachers with a lot of expertise in the UAE. Our teachers are advancing daily and our government is very supportive of teachers. Teachers in the UAE can assist teachers in developing countries by volunteering their time and expertise by providing training. In most of these developing countries the teachers are under a lot of pressure. There are sometimes 60 children to a teacher. Some of these teachers live and work in harsh conditions. It takes a lot of dedication and passion to have these teachers show up each day and commit to those children.
It is vital that children receive quality education in these countries. One way to do this is to ensure that the teachers are properly trained. This is an important mandate of our organisation and a key focus for us in all our programmes. Teachers in the UAE can offer support by volunteering their time and skills to train teachers in developing countries by either travelling to these countries or working with them remotely via the Internet.
At Dubai Cares, we have a number of initiatives in place that allow teachers to participate. One is our Adopt a School Initiative where corporations or schools can adopt a school in a developing country such as Nepal, Malawi or Senegal. While we welcome financial support, we encourage donors from the UAE to visit the school that they have adopted. This way they get to experience first-hand the positive changes resulting from their support. They can actively participate in the construction of the school. It is an experience that allows them to develop long-term relationships with these schools.
What are some of the key fundraising activities carried out by Dubai Cares?
We have initiatives that run throughout the year to assist in maximising the amount of funds that are raised to launch programmes globally. The key fundraising activities are mainly targeted at academic institutions and the corporate sector, which includes private and public organisations. We have special events for each of these sectors where they can donate as a corporate commitment or mobilise their staff members to raise funds towards that specific initiative.
Dubai Cares was launched during Ramadan; as such each year we have a special campaign during the holy month. Persons who are interested in making donations may do so by visiting http://www.dubaicares.ae for additional information on how they can get involved.
Another annual event/campaign that we have is the community volunteering initiative called Walk for Education. Held each February, the event initially started in 2009 and was dubbed the Water Bucket Walk. At that time, we asked the participants to hold buckets as they walked in order to have an idea of the distance children in developing countries have to walk every day to collect water. The following year, we changed the name to what it is today – Walk for Education. Now participants walk a distance of 3km in support of children in developing countries that have to walk 3 to 6 km every day to go to school. This year we had overwhelming support of 8000 participants. We are looking forward to launching it again next year.
What is the best advice that you have received? How has it helped you?
The best advice I received was from a dear colleague with whom I work. She told me to be fearless and to go out there and convince others to donate to a cause that I believe in. It takes courage to face people and to speak with passion and inspire them to contribute to this cause. It was actually the best advice that she gave me.
What gadget do you find to be most effective in your everyday life? Why?
The gadget that is most useful to me is my iPhone because it keeps me connected. It allows me to function efficiently in both my personal and professional life.
What do you do in your leisure time? Why?
My leisure time is spent with my kids. I have an eight-year-old daughter and a five-year-old son. As a working mother, I am very mindful that a lot of my time is spent at my job, so I make it a priority to be with my children every chance that I get.
What is one of your proudest achievements to date?
One of my proudest achievements is being part of Dubai Cares and witnessing its growth. When I graduated, I never anticipated that my career would be with a non-profit organisation. Today, I am very happy that this is what I do because it is a very inspiring job. Since 2007, the company has grown significantly and has surpassed a lot of the original goals that were put in place. I am very happy and proud of this and that I was able to contribute to its success.
When asked about her vision for Dubai Cares for the next five years, Amal is keen to point out that Dubai Cares is a pioneer in the field of Primary Education. The organisation was instrumental in achieving a significant positive change in developing communities in approximately seven years. Another notable milestone is that Dubai Cares has been recently selected by UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon to join as a partner in his 5-year global “Education First” initiative, which was launched during the week of the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2012 to ensure quality, relevant and transformative education for all children across the world.
Dubai Cares has opened the doors to an important dialogue that is worth continuing among educators and corporate institutions, locally and internationally. The message is that there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that children in developing countries have access to quality education. In conclusion, we thought it would be pertinent to leave you with this poignant quote that she shared with us:
“HH Sheikh Mohammed launched Dubai Cares because he believed that education is one of the best tools to break the cycle of poverty. By giving children an education, you are giving them an irrevocable asset, something that can be used regardless of their circumstances. Wherever these children are, regardless of the country they live in, the power of education will ensure a better future for them and generations to come.”
By Carolyn Lee