Emirati man wins Dh1m Arab Hope Makers prize

The accolade was presented by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, at a ceremony on Thursday

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An Emirati man who helped transform a hospital in Kenya into one of the most advanced facilities in the country was named the winner of the Arab Hope Makers award by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid on Thursday.

The Vice President and Ruler of Dubai presented Ahmed Al Falasi with the Dh1 million award after he was voted from a list of five individuals shortlisted for their humanitarian work in education, healthcare, and the environment.

Mr Al Falasi won by popular vote from all who attended the star-studded event but Sheikh Mohammed also gave the four other Dh1 million each as prize money.

“I consider all these people winners,” Sheikh Mohammed told the crowd on Thursday.

Earlier, more than Dh44 million was raised to build the Magdi Yacoub Global Heart Centre in Egypt, which provides free cardiac care to vulnerable communities.

“[Sheikh] Hamdan [bin] Mohammed [Crown Prince of Dubai] told me that he will match the donations made to the hospital today,” Sheikh Mohammed announced to cheers.

I consider all these people winners

Mr Al Falasi, 60, was named the Arab Hope Maker of 2020 for refurbishing the Coast General Hospital in Kenya’s Mombasa.

On a visit to Kenya, he was shocked to find ragged beds and patients on the waiting list for months before they received their kidney dialysis.

“I once saw a woman and imagined she was my mother telling me that she’s sick and she needs to do her dialysis,” he said.

“These people are less fortunate and I wonder how they live like this?”

More than 92,000 participants from 38 countries applied for this year's event, held at Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena. They were shortlisted to just five finalists.

They included Ali Al Ghamdi, a former volleyball coach, from Saudi Arabia who became known as the “father of orphans” for his efforts in creating a programme to foster 7,000 orphans and children from disadvantaged families in 28 countries across Africa.

“True happiness is when you see an innocent child smiling because of you," he said.

Another finalist was Egyptian Mujahed Mustafa, a 60-year-old general surgeon, known as the “doctor of the poor”. He dedicated his life to combating poverty and illness in his hometown Bani Suef, located in the south of Cairo.

He rejected high-paid offers to stay and practice in his hometown and sees 200-250 patients a day, charging an average of Dh2 when the routine price elsewhere is Dh70 just for a check-up.

Libyan-American, Mohamed Bzeek, 64, was the third finalist for the Arab Hope Awards. Father of a son with special needs, he fostered more than 80 terminally ill children over the past 30 years.

“When I take these children, I consider them my own. I’m not a foster parent,” he said.

American President and chief executive of the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund was also shortlisted for his work with Palestinian children.

When working as a journalist in Palestine in 1990, he met two young boys who were injured in a bombing and flew them back to Oregon in the US for treatment.

Now 53 years old, Mr Sosebee has obtained Palestinian citizenship and dedicated his life to aiding children and young amputees with free medical care in the US.

He had brought more than 5,000 doctors to Palestine who treated more than 25,000 patients in the West Bank and Gaza.

“There are sad and happy stories; sad because a lot of them are suffering things no child should have to suffer,” he said.

“When you live a life just for yourself, you feel empty and unfulfilled.”

In a change from previous events, the proceeds of the event - which included performances by Palestinian singer Mohammed Assaf and Emirati crooner Balqees - will go towards the construction of a hospital in Egypt.

More than Dh44 million in donations were announced this evening to help fund the construction of the hospital.

The highest donations came from Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority, Al Ansari Exchange and the Sawiris Foundation for Social Development. Each pledged Dh6 million to the cause.

There was cheer when Egyptian actor and comedian Ahmed Helmy was announced as the Arab Hope Maker’s new ambassador of hope. He pledged 1 million Egyptian pounds to the cause.