DUBAI // Amid celebrations this week to mark his five years as Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid drew attention to people who are less fortunate, especially orphaned children.
Sheikh Mohammed, who is also the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, on Tuesday invited 30 boys and girls to the Bab al Shams Desert Resort as part of events to celebrate the anniversary.
"I came to this desert to meet you as my children," Sheikh Mohammed told the youngsters, according to WAM, the state news agency, which added that he urged them to focus on their education.
Sheikh Mohammed's meeting with the children followed his call last Sunday imploring companies, government departments and individuals not to take out advertising space in newspapers to congratulate him on five years as Ruler of Dubai.
Instead, he urged them to donate the money to charities, particularly those that support orphans.
Following Sheikh Mohammed's call, the Dar al Ber Society - a local humanitarian organisation whose name means "house of charity" - set up dedicated bank accounts through which companies and individuals can donate the money they would have otherwise spent on the congratulatory advertisements.
"We made a special account to receive the money that will go to the children," said Mohammad al Hammadi, a board member and head of charitable projects at Dar al Ber. "Then, we will work on the vision of Sheikh Mohammed: to help the children. He is guiding us to work in the right way for these children."
The accounts (Dubai Islamic Bank, account 005520500334205, and Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, account 10068281) are expected to remain open for another week to receive donations.
Mr al Hammadi said he expected donations to total about Dh500,000, and explained that the funds will go towards Dar al Ber's programmes for orphaned children, focusing on health and education issues.
The organisation provides support to about 500 Emirati and expatriate children between one and 16 years of age.
Dar al Ber follows up on the children's progress at school, provides financial support when needed, takes the children on outings, and ensures that they have access to health care.
"Since they are living in our country, they are our kids. They're our responsibility," Mr al Hammadi said.
Abandoned and orphaned children occupy a special place in Islamic tradition. Caring for laqeet, or abandoned children, is considered a highly pious act.
Yateem (orphans) are children of known parentage whose father or both parents are deceased.
Dar al Ber, one of several organisations that support orphaned children, also provides assistance to about 24,000 orphans in countries such as India, Sudan, Egypt, Lebanon and Sri Lanka.
Another organisation, the Dubai Charity Association, provides support for orphans in countries such as Indonesia, Yemen, the Philippines, Somalia and Burkina Faso.
The UAE Red Crescent Authority supports 7,000 orphaned children in the UAE, and 53,000 orphaned children abroad, according to Mohammed al Zarouni, manager of the Red Crescent's Dubai branch.
"It is very good to support orphaned children, and Sheikh Mohammed has a very sweet heart, and is always looking to help all kinds of people," Mr al Zarouni said yesterday.