x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Dubai residents connecting pro bono professional services with Palestinian non-profits

The project dubbed Bilbaal, meaning ‘on your mind’, is hoping to harness the talent of Palestine professionals around the world to support non-profits and NGOs contributing to Palestinian people.

Dubai // Two Dubai residents are creating an online charity platform that connects Palestinian non-profit organisations with individuals offering professional services.

The project, called Bilbaal, or “on your mind”, hopes to harness the talent of Palestinian professionals around the world to support non-profits and NGOs contributing to Palestinian people.

“The Palestinian diaspora is one of the most educated in the world and if 1 per cent of the diaspora donated only 20 hours of their time per year we are looking at approximately US$100 million (Dh367.3m) worth of pro bono professional services a year,” said Rasha Kashkoush, co-founder of Bilbaal.

Ms Kashkoush, who moved to Dubai in 2004, set up Bilbaal with co-founder Dana Salloum after they met at a birthday party last year.

They discovered both were half Palestinian, grew up in Kuwait, worked in community engagement in their companies and had the same idea to start a project such as Bilbaal.

“We decided on the spot to partner up and make it happen. I genuinely believe that the entrepreneurial spirit of the UAE motivated us to actually pursue this idea and make it a reality,” said Ms Kashkoush.

The pair also realised they both assessed Palestinian community needs during their graduate programmes and came up with similar conclusions, such as connecting people who care about Palestinians, supporting existing programmes through collaboration, moving away from politics and focusing on addressing the communities’ needs.

“Bilbaal breaks down geographic boundaries to encourage collaboration and promotes a culture of online civic engagement,” Ms Salloum said.

Individual users will be able to search the portal based on causes, location and the type of support they would like to provide, such as legal advice, management design, marketing, translation, public relations, teaching or physiotherapy.

Users will be able to record their search results, rate volunteering experience, create an event, track their own work through a “giving diary” and connect with other individuals.

Organisations will be able to post opportunities for the type of support they require, promote their events and connect with potential partners.

The project’s founders have raised $20,000 through Aflamnah, the first crowd-funding portal in the Middle East, and hope to raise $10,000 more in the next two weeks. The platform is under construction and expected to launch in August.

tsubaihi@thenational.ae