Dubai Cares marks 10 years of helping children in developing countries

Philanthropic organisation started by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid has helped more than 16 million people in 45 developing countries in the past decade.

Tariq Al Gurg, chief executive of Dubai Cares, marks the anniversary of the charity’s establishment. Antonie Robertson / The National
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DUBAI // The story of Dubai Cares’ success is perhaps best told in numbers. In a matter of 10 years, the philanthropic organisation started by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid has helped more than 16 million people, mostly children, in 45 developing countries.

Guided by the vision of Founding Father Sheikh Zayed, Dubai Cares’ mission has been to fund, design and carry out programmes that provide children in developing countries with access to good quality education.

Its work will be celebrated this week as officials and partners meet to commemorate Dubai Cares’ 10th anniversary.

“Our DNA is what Sheikh Zayed built back in ‘71 when he said that it is the people who we have to develop, it is the education we have to support,” said Tariq Al Gurg, who has been chief executive of Dubai Cares since 2009. “We also have to help other nations so we can all thrive in this world.”

Sheikh Mohammed, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, launched the organisation in response to the challenges the international community faced trying to meet the eight Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations to eradicate poverty.

“Goal number two was to provide children in developing countries access to education,” said Mr Al Gurg.

“It was very specific to developing countries, it was very ­specific to primary education and access to education.”

As heads of states and governments convened for the 2005 World Summit at the UN headquarters, there was concern that some of the goals might not be achieved by the target date of 2015. “This was not acceptable to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid,” said Mr Al Gurg. “He’s a very big believer in education. He believes education is one of the most effective tools in the world to eliminate poverty or to break the cycle of poverty.”

In 2007, Sheikh Mohammed launched a fund-raising drive and, within eight weeks, residents, companies and organisations across the UAE had donated Dh1.7 billion towards Dubai Cares. During a ceremony marking the conclusion of the campaign Sheikh Mohammed announced he would match the donations, doubling the fund to Dh3.4 billion.

“It is now our priority to ensure these funds are allocated in an efficient and appropriate manner,” Sheikh Mohammed said at the ceremony.

“I have directed officials to manage the money and channel our contributions to educate millions of children around the world.”

Initially, Dubai Cares partnered with UN agencies and NGOs to support programming but once Mr Al Gurg took over as chief executive, it moved away from just funding programmes to developing its own solutions to education challenges.

“His Highness has different ideas on how we can modify the education system globally, how we can make it cost-effective, how we can make it more impactful,” said Mr Al Gurg.

“Our mission was to make that vision a reality and that’s what we did.”

Dr Tanjina Mirza, chief programmes officer at Plan International Canada, said: “We have worked [with Dubai Cares] since 2010 in some of the most complex and challenging environments including Sierra Leone and South Sudan, reaching tens of thousands of girls and boys to ensure they can access quality education. Dubai Cares has shown incredible leadership and has set a great example by focusing on girls’ education as one of its strategic priorities – a cause very close to our hearts as there are still more than 62 million girls around the world not in school.”

Dubai Cares has built and renovated 1,580 classrooms and schools, provided more than 770 water wells and potable water sources, constructed more than 5,900 latrines in schools. It has provided food to 482,350 schoolchildren, distributed 2.8 million books, trained 63,990 teachers and established 5,100 parent-teacher associations. Its deworming programme has treated 34.4 million children.