x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Abu Dhabi Award winner sets charity example

Farida Siddiqui was one of nine recipients of an Abu Dhabi Award in 2007 for her service to the community.

Farida Siddiqui gives out water and fresh fruit to labourers during one of her regular walks in the Khalidiya area of Abu Dhabi. She says she learnt her charitable ways from her mother.
Farida Siddiqui gives out water and fresh fruit to labourers during one of her regular walks in the Khalidiya area of Abu Dhabi. She says she learnt her charitable ways from her mother.

ABU DHABI // When Farida Siddiqui was recognised for her charity work with an Abu Dhabi Award four years ago, many people started seeking her help.

"They came to know about me but I really don't mind helping people out," she said. "I believe that charity has to come from within. I imbibed the spirit of charity from my mother who always looked after the welfare of the poor."

Mrs Siddiqui, 64, a Canadian national of Indian origin, arrived in Abu Dhabi in November 1979 with her husband Ureed and their two children Yunib and Muna.

She has been a volunteer with the Red Crescent Authority and the Women's Union for more than two decades. She helps labourers, teaches the values of Islam to children and Muslim converts, and comforts the sick and ailing.

She was one of the nine recipients of the Abu Dhabi Awards in 2007 for her service to the community.

The awards, established in 2005, recognise people and organisations for acts of charity and community service, whether at home or abroad.

This year's awards will focus on Al Ain and Al Gharbia and feature online nominations. Individuals have until September 24 to nominate a person of their choice.

The winners will receive their awards from Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, at a ceremony in December at the Emirates Palace hotel.

Mrs Siddiqui would like to meet Sheikh Mohammed again at this year's ceremony.

"It's unbelievable but Sheikh Mohammed gave me half an hour when I came to accept my award in 2007," she said. "We discussed my work and the labourers, patients and students who could not afford school fees. He told me to teach this to the younger generation, especially the Emirati children."

Mrs Sidiqqui has lost count of the people she has helped. "People call me when someone can't pay their hospital bills or school fees," she said. "So many children are unable to go to school. Their parents can't afford it so we pool some money to pay the fees."

She does not ask for donations. "I don't sit quietly," she said. "I'd meet the doctors. I'm happy when the patients receive treatment. Mafraq and Khalifa hospitals have been helping us a lot."

In 1990, an Indian man had heart surgery that cost Dh90,000 at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City. "He earned Dh1,000 a month," she said. "They read his salary certificate and somehow we got the bills written off."

Labourers were often scared and could not complain about their employers, she said.

"Their families are going hungry," Mrs Siddiqui said. "They had not been paid but what can they do? The people in charge are not very kind."

Last year, she helped a 17-year-old man from Bangladesh, who worked as a painter in Sharjah, to seek compensation from his employer.

He had fallen from the fourth floor of a building, injuring his spine, and was taken to Sheikh Khalifa Medical City. His company gave him a wheelchair and an air ticket but he had worked unpaid for six months.

He eventually returned to Bangladesh and received Dh22,000 in compensation, including his unpaid wages and end-of-service benefits.

"The Quran says that the greatest award is from God," she said. "This award has given me a sense of satisfaction and inspired me to continue volunteering and helping others whenever I can."

Since the inception of the Abu Dhabi Awards, more than 165,500 nominations have been received from the public. To date, 46 people have received the award.

rruiz@thenational.ae