Emirati foundation raises more than a billion dirhams for social projects

Sandooq Al Watan runs educational enrichment programmes for promising pupils and adults in the Emirates

Sandooq Al Watan runs multiple programmes for both adults and children including the UAE Talent platform for future leaders, and coding workshops for pupils aged seven to 14. Getty Images
Sandooq Al Watan runs multiple programmes for both adults and children including the UAE Talent platform for future leaders, and coding workshops for pupils aged seven to 14. Getty Images

More than a billion dirhams was raised by a local foundation to fund and support social projects, including one designed to nurture gifted pupils.

Sandooq Al Watan is an Emirati social initiative funded privately by 130 donors, each of whom has contributed millions of dirhams in the past five years.

It is widely regarded as one of the region’s largest social investment funds.

We need to make sure that we don’t just show up and disappear. We need to keep developing programmes

Mohamed Taj Al-Deen Al Qadhi

One of the foundation’s aims is to identify and support Emirati pupils with IQs among the highest in the world.

About 10,000 youngsters have benefited. Many of them had gone unnoticed in local schools and were considered average by their teachers.

The majority of the money raised by the organisation is held in an endowment fund to ensure sustainability, said Mohamed Al Qadhi, a board member and former director general of Sandooq Al Watan.

“Today I can look at my donors and say, I still have your money and just from the interest generated because of your money, 10,000 residents have benefited,” he said.

“Some have a degree, or have been identified as gifted and gone through hundreds of enrichment programmes.

“I can look at them [my donors], and they know that their money will continue achieving impact.”

Nurturing talent through education

Sandooq Al Watan, which translates as “Nation’s Fund”, was launched by Emirati businessmen in 2017.

The organisation runs programmes for adults and children, including the UAE Talent platform for future leaders and coding workshops for pupils aged 7 to 14.

To date, the organisation has identified and nurtured more than 355 gifted youngsters, and 5,000 coders have graduated from its UAE Coder Programme.

The fund also dispensed grants to 88 researchers, financed eight emerging tech start-ups and provided 10,000 laptops to support distance learning during the pandemic.

Mohamed Al Qadhi, board member of Sandooq Al Watan, delivers an online lecture for the Ramadan series of Mohamed bin Zayed Majlis. Abdullah Al Neyadi for the Ministry of Presidential Affairs 
Mohamed Al Qadhi, board member of Sandooq Al Watan, delivers an online lecture for the Ramadan series of Majlis Mohamed bin Zayed. Abdullah Al Neyadi for the Ministry of Presidential Affairs

The pandemic has not affected the fund’s investments, said Mr Al Qadi, who is also the executive director of strategy and foresight at Abu Dhabi Executive Office.

He spoke at Mohamed bin Zayed Majlis on Monday, in a talk titled “For the greater good: innovations for more resilient global communities”.

“I do believe that one of the most important things on any social initiative is continuity and that is something that has been stressed by every stakeholder,” he said.

“If you come and do a project and disappear after a year then you are not going to achieve much.

“We need to make sure that we don’t just show up and disappear. We need to keep developing programmes, developing people and see them through from A to Z and expand.

“A lot of entities don’t achieve this for two reasons. Sometimes the management of these companies don’t have a long-term vision or they don’t have the patience,” he said.

Also speaking was Fadi Ghandour, founder of Aramex and chairman of venture capital company Wamda.

He called for collaboration between community entities and corporates.

“The private sector has a key role in society beyond its core business, whether commercial services, processing or production,” he said.

“When we talk about social entrepreneurship there must be integration and joint efforts between the two sectors, as we call it the ‘community sector’ and the ‘business sector’ to come up with solutions to challenges facing society.

“Through this collaboration we can utilise the available skills and capabilities of the private sector, such as team working, investing, finding solutions with entrepreneurial thinking.”

The virtual Mohamed bin Zayed Ramadan majlis, held each Monday during the holy month, is a series of talks to promote learning and reflection.

It is broadcast on Emarat TV every Wednesday at 5.45pm, and available on YouTube afterwards.

Updated: May 6, 2021 04:54 PM

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