While awards season in the Hollywood sense may be over for another year, Abu Dhabi is gearing up for its own red-carpet affair. This Saturday, the Emirates Palace, no stranger to crimson plush, will play host to some of the Arab entertainment industry's most famous names, including the Egyptian actress Yosra, the Lebanese singer Ragheb Alama, and the Tunisian singer Saber el Robaey. They will be here to heap praise not on to the shoulders of overpaid actors and actresses, but - cue sharp intake of breath - people who are not paid at all. For the Noble Humanitarian Awards, which is to make its first stop outside Hollywood (where the event started its life last year) is all about honouring those who selflessly and freely give their time to worthy causes. Eight philanthropic organisations - including Dubai Autism Center, Friends of Cancer Patients, Dubai Cares, Gulf 4 Good, Life for Relief and Development, Nahtam Social Responsibility, the Zayed Higher Organisation for Humanitarian Care, Special Needs and Minor Affairs and the Make-a-Wish Foundation - will see their efforts recognised. One of the awards' aims, says Janeen Mansour, their founder, is to create awareness of these causes as well as highlight ways in which people can help. "It's so that people can stand up and get involved," she says. "Somebody's always in need of something and that doesn't always mean cash."
The DAC is a non-profit organisation catering for children with autism spectrum disorders. Sara Baker is a full-time volunteer: "I started working here two days a week in 2003. Two days became three, then four. Now it's a full-time job. It's a passion for me. I think when you get into this field you become more and more passionate about wanting to give more and learn more. It's given me the opportunity to get training in certain types of diagnosis, so I'm on the diagnosis team now. I am also the social community services unit co-ordinator and the event manager. We all multi-task here."
Fiona Margesson's son Gavin, 14, has been attending the DAC since November 2006: "If Gavin hadn't got a place at DAC it would have been incredibly confining for me. He needs constant care. There has been significant progress in his ability to communicate since attending the centre. He'll never talk in sentences or have a discussion, but he can now make known what he wants, which makes life so much easier and less frustrating for him. The fees (Dh25,000 a year) are hugely subsidised. It Gavin went to Dubai College he'd be paying more than double that. The main thing for me is that he's so contented. He's so happy to go into school, which is such peace of mind for me." How you can help Volunteers keen to help with activities, in classes or with spreading awareness, can fill out the online volunteer form at www.dubaiautismcenter.ae.
The Dubai-based charity organises treks to raise money for humanitarian projects in various parts of the world. Tricia Evans is a part-time volunteer on the board. "I did my first Gulf 4 Good Challenge in 2003 and have now been on the board for five years. I dedicate about one day a week to it. I passionately believe that since about 80 per cent of the world lives in poverty, if the rest of us who don't aren't doing something every single day to help, then who on earth is? I got involved in the challenges because I'm an outdoor person. You get to see a country from the inside out in the way you never would as a tourist. I've cycled along the Nile from Aswan to Luxor, and built little houses in Cambodia."
Bibhu Thakur founded Mission Himalaya, a non-profit organisation in Nepal which has benefited from the work of Gulf 4 Good. "I've known Gulf 4 Good since 2002, when they started organising the charity treks. In 2004, with the money they raised, we were able to complete a rural community hospital in Ilam. Without that, it would have taken another two or three years to complete, or would have remained a small clinic. Instead, their continuing support means we have been able to add different parts. They have also helped build an orphanage in Kathmandu and have pledged to support the construction of a new eco-farm for orphaned and destitute children. It has given hope to a lot of people." How you can help Register online for one of Gulf 4 Good's challenges at www.gulf4good.org.
FOCP is a charitable and volunteer foundation based in Sharjah providing financial, logistical and emotional support for people and families affected by the disease. Al Anood al Abdool is a part-time volunteer: "As head of the volunteers' section, I contact the team about our activities as well as communicate indirectly with the patients and help with fund-raising and awareness-spreading events. We have volunteers who are cancer survivors who go into the hospitals to help and share their experiences with patients. I joined when I was in college because I wanted to know more about cancer. It's a taboo word. Everyone's scared of it. I wanted to help."
Nabela al Badri's son, Mustafa, 11, has been receiving help from FOCP since the end of 2006. Mustafa has non-Hodgkins lymphoma, as well as hepatitis B and C. "We have many financial issues, so the support we receive from FOCP (who cover Mustafa's medical bills) is extremely important. They provide him with transport to and from the hospital where he is receiving treatment and even helped fund a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. Many of our expenses are covered by them and we couldn't do without it." How you can help Volunteers interested in helping with fund-raising events, awareness campaigns or visiting cancer patients can register online at www.focp-uae.org. You can also make a donation online.
Life for Relief and Development is a non-profit Muslim-American charity that provides humanitarian aid all over the world. Ayas Abas is a part-time volunteer and chairman of the advisory board. "I spend about 30 per cent of my time on humanitarian causes. I also volunteer for Médecins Sans Frontières and Red Crescent. My mother was chairwoman of the Iraqi Red Crescent and so was my aunt, so it runs in my blood. My role here is to promote the organisation, to deal with the media and to try to communicate with the community as much as possible. It's a joy to do. I love seeing the kids' faces when we take them to the movies or go skating. It makes you feel like you're part of the things and you're helping to change things for the better." Iyad Suleiman is regional director of Life for Relief in Palestine. "For the past two years we have been using the funds raised in the UAE and US to work on relief projects in Gaza, providing food and medical supplies. During the war in 2007 and 2008, there was huge need for medicine and ambulances as well as food relief. This year, we also started providing urgent help for the flood victims. There are between 10 and 20 humanitarian organisations here. Without them the situation would be very bad. There are many needy families." How you can help Volunteers keen to help with Dubai-based activities can visit www.lifeusa.org. Donations to its various projects can also be made online.
Dubai Cares aims to provide primary-school-age children in developing countries with access to quality education. Anas Bukhash is the country programme manager. "Our main mandate is to work abroad, but part of our work is also to mobilise the community here. Recently, we held a Water Bucket Walk along Jumeirah Road. Five thousand participants had to walk three kilometres with a bucket containing a water bottle to symbolise the walk that many children in developing countries have to make every day. We wanted to bring awareness to the connection between access to clean drinking water and children going to school. We want people to be aware of what it is they're donating to."
How you can help To find out Dubai Care's planned programme of community activities, go to www.dubaicares.ae.
This is a community-driven organisation that connects deserving charities with companies, volunteers and the media. It also creates awareness campaigns addressing social issues.
Ali bin Hammoodah, 18, is a part-time volunteer for Nahtam, and a student at the Sorbonne University in Abu Dhabi. "This [university] break I had the choice between travelling and staying in Abu Dhabi to work. I chose to stay and have been fully committed to Nahtam. I help arrange events, try to get sponsors and expand relationships with big companies. At this age most of my friends would rather just hang out. As a local guy from the Emirates, we grew up with all the perks. You name it, we had it, so sometimes we forget the importance of money or how we should handle it, because everything has been given to us. By taking part rather than just giving money, you can see what's actually going on."
Fayza Ahmed Ali Saleh's son, Ahmed, 17, attends the Al Noor Training Centre for Children with Special Needs in Dubai, which is supported by Nahtam. "Following an accident in which my daughter died, Ahmed sustained hemiplegia (paralysis). At the centre they offer him all kinds of treatment and activities as well as a wheelchair. They're very good to us. The bus picks him up at 7am and brings him back at 2pm. Before, he stayed at home, so this is great for his morale." How you can help Those keen to help at workshops and with fund-raising and awareness-raising should register online at www.nahtam.com.
The Zayed Higher Organisation for Humanitarian Care, Special Needs and Minor Affairs is a government-funded body that caters for Emiratis with all types of special needs and runs awareness-promoting campaigns. Amal Omar is a full-time volunteer at one of its projects, the Abu Dhabi Center for Care and Rehabilitation. "I was not interested in special needs before I started volunteering here. I was looking for a job in management and they needed experience. Now I am thinking of learning sign language and staying here. They are beautiful people."
Um Mohammed's son, four, attends the centre. He suffers from slow growth. "Before Mohammed starting coming here, I had misconceptions about how to treat him, but they are training me. Before, I used to be scared and pamper him. His behaviour was very bad. They taught me to treat him normally. Now he is stronger, more independent, and can interact better with people. My husband has had training too, so Mohammed is getting help from everybody, at school and at home." How you can help Volunteers interested in spreading awareness of the organisation's work should visit www.zayedhicare.ae.
The Make-a-Wish Foundation is a non-profit organisation that grants "wishes" to children suffering from life-threatening conditions. Fawziya al Ahbabi is a part-time volunteer. "I work in the Central Bank in Al Ain and this provides something different from my job. I recruit and train volunteers, organise activities and fund-raising events. I like to help children. It adds balance to my life."
Loay Basha's son Kenan, 10, has leukaemia. Make-a-Wish recently sent him and his family to Disneyland Paris. "Since he was five, Kenan has wanted to go to Disneyland. They paid for the tickets and hotel for my family. It helped to keep him positive during treatment. He need something to get him through it. Getting this was like a reward for his patience and for having such a difficult time." How you can help Volunteers keen to become "wish granters" or to help with fund-raising or spreading the foundation's message can call 04 368 0217 or go to www.makeawish.ae.