DUBAI // A Filipina expatriate known for her charity work for prisoners and other compatriots in need will receive an award presented by the Philippine president.
Wafa Roscales Kasimieh won this year's Bagong Bayani ("new heroes") award for community and social service. The award is made every two years and recognises exemplary overseas Filipino workers.
Mrs Kasimieh visits her compatriots in Dubai and Sharjah jails, and at police detention centres, offering not only counselling and spiritual guidance but also helping them return home after completing their sentence.
She refers requests for assistance to individuals and organisations in the Emirates who donate air tickets and provide assistance to the needy.
When Sarah San Gabriel, 53, lost her job as a remittance cashier, Mrs Kasimieh, a Dubai Government employee, helped her find another.
"She sent my nephew to an Arabic school and has helped so many orphaned children to get a good education," said Mrs San Gabriel. And when her husband died in August last year, Mrs Kasimieh offered moral and financial support.
"Sister Wafa deserves the award not only for helping me and my relatives but for her service to the community here and in our country."
In the Philippines, Mrs Kasimieh supports a high school in Iloilo province. For five years, she has provided scholarships to 30 secondary school and university students there.
Mrs Kasimieh is a senior adviser at Dubai's Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department, where she has worked since 1996. She converted from Christianity to Islam in 1990. Aisha Mohammed Obaid Al Kash, the director of the edification and religious guidance department, nominated her for the award.
The Philippine president, Benigno Aquino III, will present her with the award at the Malacanang Presidential Palace on December 1. This is not the first time Mrs Kasimieh has received an award from the country's president. Last December, she was in Manila to receive the Presidential Banaag ("ray of light") Award, which also recognises the achievements and contributions of Filipinos overseas.
Amilbahar Amilasan, the labour attache in Dubai, said Mrs Kasimieh was the only nominee and recipient of this year's Bagong Bayani Award in the UAE.
"There are many community leaders in Dubai and the Northern Emirates who are also deserving of this award," he said.
"Sister Wafa was nominated by a Dubai Government official. She converted to Islam, reached out to her Muslim and non-Muslim compatriots here, hosted Ramadan iftars and responded to disasters by sending relief goods back home."
Established in 1984, the Bagong Bayani Award honours Filipinos for contributing to the socio-economic development of their communities and the Philippines as a whole. The award "recognises and pays tribute to their efforts in promoting the image of the Filipino as a competent, responsible and dignified worker".