Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 6 July 2020

Portrait of a Nation: The Abu Dhabi globe-trotter bringing the world together

Dana Al Hosani finds a sense of belonging through her passion for volunteering during her travels as a child

Dana Al Hosani has turned her passion for volunteering into her vocation. Antonie Robertson/The National
Dana Al Hosani has turned her passion for volunteering into her vocation. Antonie Robertson/The National

An Abu Dhabi community champion is on a mission to make the world a better place - one country at a time.

Dana Al Hosani, 22, never had trouble feeling at home in a nomadic childhood spent moving from continent to continent, taking in far-flung destinations such as the United States and the United Kingdom, Jordan, India and Kenya.

Volunteering was not only a path to forging friendships in each new nation she landed, but set her off on a life-long journey that has plenty of kilometres left to run.

"I was born in the Phillippines and raised in many countries. I came in to the UAE only at the age of 15," said Ms Al Hosani.

"I grew up in a family that was trying to belong in different countries and one thing my parents instilled in my sibling and I was volunteering, or giving back to the community we lived in."

Ms Al Hosani, now a student life co-ordinator at New York University Abu Dhabi, fondly recalls the moment her passion for helping others was first stirred.

She was just 12 years old, and living in Jordan, when she managed a bazaar organised by the country's royal family to raise money for worthy causes.

Her location may have changed several times over since then, but the mindset has remained the same.

The young activist has raised awareness of pressing international issues such as climate change and forced migration, led groups and discussions on mental health and feminism, helped children learn the Quran in Kenya and won NYUAD's President's Service Award in 2016, an accolade celebrating the civic and leadership achievements of students across the university’s global network.

Under the tutelage of her parents, she volunteered at several orphanages, and animal centres and took part in fundraising runs, school events and beach clean-ups by the time she turned 17.

In the first year of college, she worked at the Future Centre for Special Needs in Abu Dhabi to support children with intellectual disabilities.

Every week on Tuesdays, she volunteered as a teacher assistant, working with children aged between five and nine.

“I was able to build relationships and a vivid experience was when one of the pupils called me by name. For me, that was an invitation into their space," she said.

“Until my first year of college, I had always volunteered under the guidance of my parents but when I worked at the centre, I found comfort in volunteering and it created a sense of belonging for me.

“It gave a different perspective to what volunteering means and I gained so much out of that experience.

“One day, I walked into a class and a pupil called my by name, I was so emotional. I felt that I had had some impact and was able to build a relationship with the child.”

Maha Al Mazrouei, a college friend, said she was inspired to take up volunteering at the centre by Ms Al Hosani.

“She motivated me through her love for kids, and her patience with them," said Ms Al Mazrouei.

"She was quickly able to make meaningful relationships with the children and teachers and would help me find creative ways to interact with them.”

When volunteering is deemed a requirement it loses its value

Dana Al Hosani

Ms Al Hosani is one of the driving forces behind the Girls Education Network, a leadership development programme in Abu Dhabi founded by NYUAD students Ritu Muralidharan and Sofia Gomez-Doyle.

"ln the UAE, we have so many youth and we need a space for young pupils to explore themselves as a part of a network as this will have a great impact on the future," said Ms Al Hosani.

At the free workshops, young girls discuss topics such as what it means to be a feminist, gender equality and how to find one’s career path.

For the young campaigner, volunteering must be a passion, not just a way to boost a CV.

“When volunteering is deemed a requirement it loses its value,” she said.

“I think it’s important to educate parents to see the value in volunteering to see why they should encourage their children to volunteer."

Carole Chapelier, Community Development and Outreach Manager at NYUAD, praised Ms Al Hosani's selfless commitment to supporting others.

“There are so many ways in which Dana strives to make a positive impact in our world, whether it be by taking care of the environment, being thoughtful as to what she eats and how she treats animals, giving her time to orphanages abroad, or ensuring that all members of our society are given a chance to thrive,” said Ms Chapelier.

Updated: December 16, 2019 12:12 PM

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