Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid awards prizes to Arab Hope Makers 2024

Awards recognise humanitarianism and philanthropy across the region, and each finalist receives Dh1 million

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Iraqi pharmacist Tala Al Khalil was named the 2024 winner of the Arab Hope Makers award on Sunday night.

She and three other finalists will each receive a prize of Dh1 million in recognition of their humanitarian work

The major award was established by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, to honour people in the Arab world who dedicate their lives to humanitarian work.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid crowned the four finalists during a ceremony at Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai.

“In our part of the world, hope-making is life-making. The only way we can overcome challenges is through collaborative efforts,” Sheikh Mohammed said.

“Hope for a better future is what keeps people going. Every new generation bears the responsibility of creating a better reality in their communities.

"On the other hand, spreading despair is our major challenge, which is why we need to continue to nurture hope, optimism and positivity among the new generation.”

Ms Al Khalil started her journey as a hope maker in 2015, when she started receiving young cancer patients in a special "caravan" at the Basra Children’s Hospital, helping them to overcome challenges associated with their illness, including studying and inclusion in society.

The initiative offered children with cancer hope and optimism away from the hard reality of treatments and hospital wards.

It was the start that inspired Ms Al Khalil to establish her Warriors Academy in 2018, to care for young people of determination who suffer from various illnesses.

She personally cares for 200 children with Down syndrome and cancer, and has been nicknamed "Mother of Warriors".

“I know the feeling of a person losing someone," Ms Al Khalil told The National. "The real mother is the shelter who won't surrender.

"I wanted to support the people of determination and [those who] have cancer. I hope the prize will help me to expand the academy and host more than 500 children.

"I believe in the role of good mental health in enhancing immunity and the body’s ability to fight illness.”

The initiative attracted more than 58,000 nominations from across the region, with proceeds from the closing ceremony set to go towards humanitarian causes.

Aiming to shine a light on acts of generosity and goodwill that transform lives and communities, the awards' fourth edition was announced in June last year, with people able to nominate themselves.

More than 12,000 people attended the event, among them top humanitarian and cultural personalities from the Arab world.

Artists Hussein Al Jassmi, Ahlam and Asala performed live at the closing ceremony.

The finalists

Dr Mohamed Al Najjar, 37, from Iraq, lost his leg in 2014. A fan of football since his childhood, he turned this tragedy into motivation for change and hope.

While studying for his doctorate in England, he joined the Portsmouth football team for amputees, excelled and made a name for himself, winning the title of the club’s best player in 2019.

On returning to Iraq, he formed a football team of amputees that went on to compete in international friendly matches, qualifying for the 2022 Amputee Football World Cup in Turkey just a year after its formation.

Thanks to Dr Al Najjar's relentless efforts to motivate his team members and help them to rise above their injuries, the Iraqi team now ranks 19th globally out of 70 amputee football teams.

Moroccan YouTuber Amin Imnir's social media account Faysboki strives to improve living conditions for underprivileged Moroccans.

Heading the Aftas Society for Development and Solidarity, Imnir has sponsored several humanitarian initiatives and aid campaigns in his country, documenting his efforts through his Faysboki TV channel to help spread the culture of humanitarian work and motivate others to join.

Aftas’s list of achievements includes the distribution of more than 1,000 solar panels, more than 4,500 food parcels to poor families including widows and orphans, the financing of 217 surgical operations in 2023 and the planting of 2,800 fruitful trees.

Known as "the mother of orphans" and "Mama Fathiya", Egyptian hope maker Fathiya Al Mahmoud offers an inspiring example of selfless giving and nurturing hope.

In 2005, Ms Al Mahmoud and her husband of 35 years decided to adopt 34 orphan girls.

The two founded the A Touch of Hope society to care for orphans, raising, educating and inspiring 34 girls without any outside help.

Realising that raising that number of girls is a challenging endeavour, Ms Al Mahmoud dived deep into the world of nurturing children and how to care for girls’ physical and mental needs.

In addition to their work in caring for orphans, the couple established a charity hospital that offers free health care to orphans and people of determination.

Updated: February 25, 2024, 8:23 PM