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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 26 April 2018

Sometimes we all need a Helping Hand: how our readers are saving lives

The National at 10: Readers open hearts to needy people in distress who have nowhere to turn

Jackielyn Quiasmbao fears she will end up like many members of her family who have died of kidney failure. Satish Kumar for The National
Jackielyn Quiasmbao fears she will end up like many members of her family who have died of kidney failure. Satish Kumar for The National

Hisham Al Zahrani has one regret – that The National’s readers cannot see the results of their compassion and humanity.

Mr Al Zahrani is the manager of zakat and social services at Dar Al Ber Society, the Dubai government charity that forged a link with our media outlet for Helping Hands, our weekly column to help those who are in dire need and have nowhere else to turn.

“I wish readers would know how their donations have transformed and even saved the lives of all these people,” he says.

In October 2015, Dar Al Ber and The National jointly launched our successful charity project.

The society gave us the ability to help our readers because under UAE law it is prohibited to raise funds or collect donations without an accredited licence, one of which Dar Al Ber holds. Each week we report on people and families in desperate straits and ask our readers to donate through text messages or directly into Dar Al Ber’s account.

“The main purpose, I believe, is to make the community aware of the importance of charity work and by supporting each other they are saving lives,” Mr Al Zahrani says.

So far we have published about 100 cases involving people from India, the Philippines, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Morocco, Russia, Ghana and many others in this multicultural nation.

Some needed donations to help pay for medical bills because they lacked health insurance; others needed to clear their debts and had arrest warrants against them.

Five-year-old Sultan has an immune deficiency disorder and requires monthly injections that the father, who holds Comoros island citizenship, could not afford. Antonie Robertson / The National
Five-year-old Sultan has an immune deficiency disorder and requires monthly injections that the father, who holds Comoros island citizenship, could not afford. Antonie Robertson / The National

But of all the cases, the most heart-breaking were those where parents were being forced to watch their children dying because they could not afford to pay for their treatment.

Thanks to readers’ donations, they and their children can be given another chance at life.

One of our first reports was of a Syrian mother whose abusive husband had abandoned her and left the country. She was penniless and homeless, living on the streets with her three children aged 4, 6 and 9.

Immediately after her case was published on October 31, 2015, readers came forward offering accommodation, a job and financial support for her and her children.

Many other times the team at The National and Dar Al Ber have been stunned by the immense support of local communities.

Moroccan Abd El Hadie’s mother appealed to readers for help when she could not afford the operation for her son to have a tumour removed from his urethra. The Moroccan community in the UAE rallied to the cause, quickly providing the money for the surgery, which Abd El Hadie underwent last week.

Soniya Sameera with her son Armaan. She needed Dh40,000 to pay off her rent and loan installment. Victor Besa / The National
Soniya Sameera with her son Armaan. She needed Dh40,000 to pay off her rent and loan installment. Victor Besa / The National

Indian Soniya Sameera needed assistance to pay off her debts because she was under the threat of arrest and deportation. Thanks to her compatriots, Sonya has cleared her debts and found new employment.

Since the beginning of the weekly series, readers have donated a total of Dh2 million. On top of that, organisations and hospitals have come forward to pay for much-needed operations.

In one case, Manalita Antiporda, 65, desperately needed heart surgery. A Dubai hospital answered her call of distress and paid for the operation, which she had a few weeks ago.

And the life of a young Iraqi was changed after a private medical centre offered him bariatric surgery. The man, 24, weighed 180 kilograms.

Khadeejah Ahmed was born two months premature in Dubai and her family needed help paying off Nicu bills to bring baby home. Courtesy Mahetab family
Khadeejah Ahmed was born two months premature in Dubai and her family needed help paying off Nicu bills to bring baby home. Courtesy Mahetab family

His weight had led to serious health problems and made him a prisoner in his own house. He dropped out of university and shut himself away. Today, after the generosity of the centre, his weight is down to 85kg.

Oasis Hospital in Al Ain paid for an operation for a young boy born with a cleft lip and palate after reading about his family’s plight in The National.

And more recently, Filipina Jackielyn Quiasmbao could not afford to pay for her dialysis. Without the regular treatment she would have died, but after readers came to know of her terrible situation, a private medical centre offered her free dialysis treatment at her home for as long as she needed it.

In some cases, within an hour of reading the reports, readers have donated up to Dh200,000 to pay for treatments.

50-year-old Davidson Rich-Agoe from Ghana needed donations to pay off his debts. Antonie Robertson / The National
50-year-old Davidson Rich-Agoe from Ghana needed donations to pay off his debts. Antonie Robertson / The National

In the case of Hassan Sultan, an Iranian who has worked in a bakery for 23 years and needed Dh140,000 for surgery, an anonymous reader paid the entire amount a few hours after the case was published.

So many people have benefited from the selflessness of our readers and the support of many government and private organisations, giving them a second, less painful chance

at life.

The National will continue publishing these cases every week and hopefully – with the support of our community – continue to bring hope.

“It is all in God’s hands but your donations are saving lives,” Mr Zahrani said.

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Read more of our 10-year anniversary coverage here:

SPECIAL REPORT: Chronicling 10 years of change in the UAE

UAE food scene: the taste of progress

A decade of media experimentation

Technology has transformed every aspect of life in UAE

The art of institution building