Set up by founding President Sheikh Zayed, the Zayed Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation has changed lives, and its director is working on how to help more.
Zayed Foundation charity spends Dh1.6bn helping the needy
ABU DHABI // Ahmed Al Dhaheri's job of recording where the nation spends its foreign aid is important in a culture where giving is regarded as a personal thing.
But Mr Al Dhaheri, head of the Zayed Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation, knows that documenting the country's giving leads to a more effective distribution of the funds.
"Our culture made it a taboo to give to someone and say you did so," said the former FNC member. "Other [cultures] donate a small amount and hold a festival for it, but we help and spend and no one knows."
After leaving the FNC in 2011 to take on his role at the foundation, one of his goals was to document its achievements - something the Office for the Coordination of Foreign Aid (Ocfa) had begun doing the year before.
"Sometimes we find many entities have not taken part in giving donations," he said. "When we speak to Ocfa they say they did but it is not documented. We tell people to write it down so we know how much, even if it's little."
Recording its work allows the foundation to identify the countries it is yet to help.
"We know when we place a budget now that we don't want a year where we only reach four or five of the continents," Mr Al Dhaheri said.
At the start of every year, the foundation asks the country's ambassadors to see what work it can do for that nation, be it in health, education, relief or development.
After that, through UAE charities available in that country or through international organisations or the country's government, aid is given.
The process was important for opening avenues of communication, Mr Al Dhaheri said.
"After we finish a project, they can come back," he said.
"Like a university. First we finish the university, then they ask for another building for another college. Or to have a clinic, or a computer lab, or housing."
After building a university in an Eastern European country, for example, the foundation has now gone back to add student housing.
Since its establishment in 1992 by the late President Sheikh Zayed, the foundation has built hospitals, schools, universities and houses, and funded projects including vaccine programmes, in more than a 100 countries.
In two decades, it has spent Dh800 million abroad and just as much inside the country.
Last year, the foundation spent Dh34 million inside and outside the country and worked in Nepal, Kosovo, Slovenia, Croatia, Portugal, and Korea for the first time.
"Every year we increase our presence in countries," Mr Al Dhaheri said. "We are optimistic that the UAE has now expanded their care in humanitarian work by having a specialised ministry, documenting things, giving out annual reports of the work of the country, and taking part in world cases."
While working inside the UAE, to which half their budget is allocated, the foundation only helps expatriates.
"Sheikh Zayed always had a saying that expats come and work here, and live here and earn, but during that time they face trouble," he said.
"So as a government we have to be there to help them because they are away from their family."
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