Asita Amighi is setting up an organisation that will invite professionals to give up their free time to volunteer for various charity projects. Ms Amighi, who screens investments for a company in Abu Dhabi, explains how her project will work.
You recently took part in a five-day bicycle ride held by the charitable group, Gulf4Good. How did the experience inspire you to set up your own charity?
We cycled 400 kilometres across all seven emirates, raising more than Dh300,000 (US$81,670) for the Al Manar charity school in Ajman for orphans and abandoned children. I found that along the way friends were calling not only offering their support but showing an interest to donate resources to the school. That's where the idea was born, because everybody was somehow pulling in.
You're going to invite professionals to give their time for free to help on charity projects. How is it all going to work?
It will be run on a project-by-project basis. It will be a straightforward process, matching experienced professionals with a particular project and cause of their interest. For example, friends who own law firms in Dubai, Gold Line Legal Consultants and Hamdan Al Shamsi Advocate & Legal Consultant, provided pro-bono legal advice on how to set up my charity. A friend from a top five auditing company is proposing free or discounted auditing for next year. The same voluntary efforts would apply to my next charity project.
What kind of professionals are you looking for?
All backgrounds are welcome.
Have you got any specific projects in mind?
Yes, one of my friends is a lecturer in Islamic archaeology at a university here in the Gulf. I would love to collaborate with him and his colleagues undertaking a hiking tour of the beautiful mountain villages right on our doorstep here in the UAE. I have already entered preliminary discussions with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and UN Middle East office. The proceeds of the historical walk will go to UNHCR.
You say this is a natural progression to what you've done in your life so far. How so?
After [completing] my MBA in finance and strategy I was the co-managing director at the London-based Al Madad Foundation raising funds through art projects for sustainable development programs. I came to Dubai four years ago as an associate director at a bank, and during the January 2009 turmoil on the Gaza strip I raised Dh140,000 among colleagues within 24 hours filling up a van to provide antibiotics for the affected babies and children.
It sounds like your latest project is going to take a lot of your previously spare time.
It's all about finding the right ingredients and the right partners. I am currently in talks with leading NGOs [non-government organisations] and charities who will do the back-end bit. I'm not trying to do this myself or be a hero. I'm trying to allow everyone to contribute to a bigger cause. It's like baking a cake and putting all the ingredients together. Without the right ingredients I can't bake this cake.