x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Money & Me: Centre's non-profit mission inspires sacrifice

Nasif Kayed is the general manager of the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding.

Nasif Kayed is the general manager of the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding in Dubai, which teaches people about Emirati and Arab traditions and customs. Jeff Topping / The National
Nasif Kayed is the general manager of the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding in Dubai, which teaches people about Emirati and Arab traditions and customs. Jeff Topping / The National

Nasif Kayed is the general manager of the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU), a non-profit organisation that brings together people from different backgrounds, cultures and religions to broaden their horizons.

What was money like growing up?

I was born in Kuwait. We had barely any money growing up. We were very poor. There were nine of us in a small house and we slept like sardines. Money was just not a big thing for us. Today, I am a self-made businessman and have established 40 companies in my lifetime in various countries, including the US and Canada. But at the end of the day, money hasn't changed much for me.

Are you a spender or a saver?

I definitely enjoy the good things in life, including food and clothes. I love trying different types of food and I must travel as much as possible and experience other cultures. As a businessman, I'm a re-investor. I'm not into holding money. I am known as someone who reinvests as much as 70 per cent of my earnings to regrow my business. I save, but I do not save in terms of hoarding. I grow the business I have. But at the moment, I am more focused on the SMCCU and it has engulfed me more now. I will stay with it until it has reached its full potential.

What is the biggest difference between running a non-profit organisation and a regular business?

The biggest difference, I would say, is the level of commitment. Running a non-profit is more work than other businesses because of the mission principle. Non-profit is about delivering a message and a way of life. You give everything, including money. You sacrifice. I work 12 hours a day to get to the people who do not understand our culture. It's a commitment beyond financial goals.

How does SMCCU make money?

We earn revenue from the activities we run. We want it to be a programme by the people, for the people. If we were funded by the Government, people would not see the merit. So for us, we are self-sustaining. One activity we run is the Jumeirah Mosque presentation. For Dh10, you get an hour-and-a-half in the mosque and listen to the service. It includes educational materials and we give you proper attire. You are encouraged to ask questions. We also hold a breakfast every Monday and Wednesday at 10am. It's a local breakfast with an open discussion, and this costs Dh60. Then we have lunch on Sunday to Tuesday at 1pm for Dh70, along with heritage tours throughout the Bastakiya for Dh55. Last year, we broke even for the first time. We have included more activities and achieved better market penetration.

Why is this charity so important?

It is much needed in our era. After September 11 and such, there is too much negativity in the media about each other, in terms of Arabs, how they dress and what they believe. This centre seeks to build cultural understanding. When we talk with other cultures, we realise how similar we all are. We want to unite people rather than separating them.

How can people get involved?

On an individual basis, we want people to get involved and bring their colleagues and neighbours to our activities. In terms of companies, we want them to allow us to come to their place of work and promote our work. Everyone needs to get involved with us. Whatever skill you have, you can also volunteer and we'll appreciate it.

In your experience, do people in the UAE approach money differently than in other parts of the world?

In the UAE, everyone is striving to drive the nicest car or have luxurious things. Emiratis are facing what the Europeans have gone through and are not settled yet. Over here, there is still a heavy drive to attain. It will settle down. Once you get a Ferrari and drive it, you realise: what's next? But in general, people have become very fanatic about money. At the end of the day, you can live with very little. There are people who are crazy about the number; that's not the way I look at it.

Do you have any financial advice?

Money is a facilitator and life is too short. Enjoy it while you are making it. If you stack it up until the day you die, you might have missed out. Your age, your health goes away and what interests you then is no longer interesting. While you have money, enjoy it as you go along. Stop and smell the roses. Don't keep planting them. Your garden is already beautiful.

To volunteer or participate in an activity with the SMCCU, visit its website at www.cultures.ae, or call 04 353 6666