For 21 children with disabilities in Fujairah, Ramadan started this year on a sorrowful note. Dimensions Centre, which cared for them and provided free sessions and discounts of up to 50 per cent to parents who could not afford to pay the full fees, announced its closure. Parents were crestfallen: they had noticed marked improvements in their children's behaviour since sending them to Dimensions. One of the pupils at the centre slid into a deep desolation, drawing a poignant self-portrait which depicted him holding his therapist's hand. Numerous appeals for help by the centre's tenacious founder and manager, Tamara Tagliapietra, failed to yield adequate donations to finance its long-term functioning.
The National, which had been following the centre's story for month, carried an article towards the end of May detailing the remarkable work done by Dimensions and the distress that was compelling it to close after three years of providing indispensable care to children. And suddenly offers of help began pouring in from readers of this newspaper. "I tried to take all the available opportunities", says Ms Tagliapietra, "but after announcing the centre's closure through The National, I received calls and emails from philanthropists offering help". VPS Healthcare called Dimensions with the offer to pay its outstanding bills, rent, salaries and licensing costs. This was followed by a generous donation from the government of Fujairah.
The result is that Dimensions has reopened. The spirit of Ramadan was affirmed by readers, whose philanthropy has rescued an important centre of learning and ensured that children with disabilities will once again receive the support they need and parents who had given up all hope can smile again. This happy outcome spotlights yet again the culture of giving that is so prevalent in this country, while reminding us of the transformative power of charity. Ordinary people have the ability, through small acts, to make an enormous difference for those in need.
The impulse to help, however, must be tempered with caution. There are many causes that deserve our attention and support; at the same time, not everything is as it appears. If we are not careful, our best intentions may end up abetting crimes and terror. This is why the UAE has outlawed donations to unregistered charities and introduced strong punishments for those who give to them. A three-year prison term for those who donate to unregistered fundraising campaigns may appear excessive at first. But consider the potential for harm should the money make its way to the treasuries of terrorist groups and it seems a reasonable punishment and a sound deterrent. Following the laws and regulations of this country is the best way to help others and change lives – as Dimensions has done and, thanks to the readers of The National, will continue to do.