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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

Arab Hope Makers awards draws nearly 40,000 applicants in just six days

The Dh1m initiative launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid honours the humanitarian efforts of individuals in the Arab world

The winner of last year's Arab Hope Maker award, Nawal Al Sufi, was presented the award by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, for her work with refugees in Italy. Reem Mohammed / The National
The winner of last year's Arab Hope Maker award, Nawal Al Sufi, was presented the award by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, for her work with refugees in Italy. Reem Mohammed / The National

A competition that seeks out inspirational stories from across the Arab world has attracted three times as many applicants in its first week as it did last year.

More than half a million people have visited the website for Arab Hope Makers, with 40,000 applicants just six days after it was launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.

The initiative honours the humanitarian efforts of individuals in the Arab world, with nearly one in four applicants coming from Saudi Arabia.

First held last year, the Arab Hope Makers awards attracted 65,000 applicants by the time the Dh1 million top prize was awarded in May.

The competition already looks set to shatter that number in 2018, with an average of more than 6,500 applications a day since last weekend.

Nearly 60 per cent have come from four Arab countries, with 23 per cent from Saudi, 17 per cent from Egypt, eight per cent from Jordan, six per cent from Syria and five per cent, or 4,000, from the UAE.

Last year five entrants from Morocco, Iraq, Yemen, Egypt and Syria were selected as finalists.

Nawal Al Sufi, a Moroccan woman who works with refugees in Italy was named as the overall winner but all five finalists were given Dh1 million by Sheikh Mohammed, including the Syrian White Helmets, volunteers who work to save lives in rescue missions, and Majda Gibran, better known as “Mama Maggie”, whose charitable foundation works with children in the slums of Cairo.

Organisers initially expected around 2,000 entrants, but eventually received three times that number. This year’s competition looks set to eclipse even that total.

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Saeed Al Eter, Assistant Secretary General of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives - the organisation behind the Hope Makers awards, said this year’s competition had already generated “great interaction and buzz.”

“The Arab Hope Makers Initiative shows us that the message of hope has begun spreading and bearing its fruit,” he said.

The aim of the MBRGI was to: “Establish the industry of hope based on positive values that will become essential elements in the social, cultural, intellectual and psychological structures of Arab societies.” Mr Al Eter said.

Entrants are divided into different categories, including education, environment, relief, health, medical aid, culture and art programmes, as well as programmes for community development, and women’s and youth empowerment.

Last year’s awards saw almost one in three entrants devoted to volunteering, with nearly 20 per cent for education and youth initiatives respectively and nearly 10 per cent for health.

The aim of the MBRGI is to: “Establish the industry of hope based on positive values that will become essential elements in the social, cultural, intellectual and psychological structures of Arab societies,” said Mr Al Eter.

The award is open to individuals, groups and organisations, he said, adding that: “Any act of giving, no matter how big or small, is noble and worthy of praise and recognition.”