x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Abu Dhabi Award winners saluted

Ten extraordinary residents in the emirate were honoured with Abu Dhabi Awards for their contributions to fostering goodwill in the community.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, shares a word with Aquida Al Muhairi, the oldest winner of an Abu Dhabi Award.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, shares a word with Aquida Al Muhairi, the oldest winner of an Abu Dhabi Award.

ABU DHABI // Dr Maha Barakat puts in extra hours, performs home visits and works tirelessly to raise awareness about living a healthy lifestyle.

As medical and research director at the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre in the capital, Dr Barakat has contributed to the community with her acts of kindness. Yesterday she was honoured with one of this year's 10 Abu Dhabi Awards.

In the video introduction that accompanies nominees' awards, Dr Barakat, who was brought up in Abu Dhabi, was applauded for going far above and beyond what could be expected in her work.

"The fact that she has given up so much of her time … is why this place is a success," said Suhail Al Ansari, the executive director of Mubadala Healthcare, which partially oversees the diabetes centre.

"She has devoted herself and her personal time to this place," Mr Al Ansari said.

The only woman honoured in yesterday's biennial ceremony, Dr Barakat accepted her award from Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

The ten people honoured were selected from a record-breaking 22,000 nominees, and were recognised for their contributions to the UAE's growth in areas including the environment, health awareness, education and culture and heritage.

"In honouring these truly remarkable individuals, we honour the original values and noble principles of UAE society," the Crown Prince said in a statement published by Wam, the state news agency.

“Such values and principles are still deeply rooted in the minds of many of our citizens and they deserve our thanks and appreciation for the benefit they brought to our society.”

Abdul Muqeet Abdul Mannan, a 10-year-old Indian schoolboy who launched a campaign to reduce plastic bag use, was the award’s youngest winner in its seven years. Aquida Al Muhairi, a 91-year-old Emirati who practises and teaches traditional medicine techniques, was the oldest.

Abdul has worked to encourage his classmates and other community members to join him in promoting eco-friendly alternatives to using plastic bags, which pose hazards to camels and other wildlife. Nicknamed “The Paper Bag Boy”, Abdul collects old newspapers and spare scraps of paper to turn into bags for use at local groceries and corner shops.

In 2010, the first year he created and donated his bags, the youngster distributed more than 4,000 in Abu Dhabi.

“He has inspired his own school, his own community, and even some of this country’s leaders,” an environment agency official said in the video message shown at the ceremony.

Other winners earned distinction for their contributions to increasing awareness and education in younger generations.

Sultan Al Dhaheri, who announced a US$1 million donation to the Masdar Institute last week, was recognised for his philanthropy. An advocate for scholarship, Mr Al Dhaheri, an FNC member for Abu Dhabi, pays school and university fees for deserving students and last year made a Dh10 million endowment to Zayed University for appointing a chair in Islamic finance.

Dr Taisser Atrak, the chairman of paediatrics at Mafraq Hospital, has trained hundreds of the emirate’s residents on life-saving techniques and first aid for children. Dr Atrak has also worked promoting safety regulations for children, particularly in vehicles, and he launched the Buckle Up campaign to stress the importance of using child safety seats.

This year’s nominees, 6,000 more than in 2010, represented 62 nations. Any resident of the emirate could be nominated, and anyone, in or outside the UAE, could submit nominations. They were gathered electronically, by mail, and in Abu Dhabi itself at 10 manned booths and from nine dropboxes for nomination forms. Last night’s was the sixth award ceremony. The first was in 2005, and it now takes place every two years.

jthomas@thenational.ae