x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Thanks a million, says Red Crescent

One hundred people and companies who gave more than Dh1m in the past year are recognised for their contributions to humanitarian efforts.

ABU DHABI // Every year for the past two decades, Talal Khouri has donated large amounts to the UAE Red Crescent Authority, sometimes more than Dh10 million (US$2.7m) at once. Some of the donations have come from his personal fortune, others were on behalf of his company, Al Awael Holding, which is involved in financial services, property, industry and trade.

The 37-year-old Emirati, who is chairman of Al Awael, said he was following on from his father, who made contributions to charity as far back as he could remember. "The division is 50 per cent for Red Crescent, 25 per cent to other charity foundations and 25 per cent remains [for our own projects]," said Mr Khouri. "So the calculations differ from year to year." On Sunday, at Nakheel Palace, Mr Khouri was one of 100 donors recognised for their support of the RCA.

Sixty-five donors received gold medals for giving more than Dh1m in the past year. The rest were given shields and certificates, as they had already received medals in previous years. The honoured donors included members of the Royal Family, individuals and companies. Their money had been used to fund projects such as sponsoring orphans, and emergency and relief missions. "These accomplishments wouldn't have been possible without the support of nationals and residents," said Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, the Ruler's Representative to the Western Region and president of the RCA.

Mr Khouri said he specified to the RCA where he wanted his money to go, then the authority would get back to him with the options. "The Red Crescent investigates the missions beforehand to ensure security and effectiveness," he said. "So, to be on the safe side, I wait for them to get back to us with their plan." Among Mr Khouri's favourite charity projects were relief missions in the West Bank and Gaza, and in Pakistan.

"We should give them bigger support, we should not think twice, because what they are going through could also happen to us," he said. His dream project is to be granted land to build houses for widows or divorcees in Abu Dhabi. For a similar project by the Fujairah Charity Association, Mr Khouri personally contributed seven houses. The project has since been extended to the neighbouring emirates of Ras al Khaimah and Ajman.

Sheikh Hamdan said charity work in the UAE had reached a turning point, switching from disaster relief to development projects that could make a tangible difference around the world. Dr Farouk Hamada, a consultant at the Diwan of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, said: "There is not a place on earth that did not benefit from Sheikh Zayed when he formed the UAE Red Crescent. "He did not differentiate between Muslims and non-Muslims, Arabs or non-Arabs. He helped everyone in need alike."

Humanitarian efforts like those of the RCA were a way of promoting peace, Dr Hamada said. "When I travel to other countries, and people stop me and find out I work for Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, they immediately recognise him," he said. "This is all because of the UAE leaders' generosity outside the country." The ceremony was the fourth to be held during Ramadan in honour of RCA donors. Abdul Rahman al Tunaiji, the RCA's director of media and public relations, said the holy month was a special period for acts of generosity. "The event is also a chance to remind the benefactors to participate in our Ramadan projects," he said.

"The amount of donations and the number of beneficiaries increased this year, especially with the Gaza donations." Over the past 18 months, the RCA has been involved in charity projects worth a total Dh340m, with most of the funding from private donors. Since the charity was founded in 1983, projects worth Dh3 billion have been carried out. hdajani@thenational.ae