A foundation that provides education to unprivileged children has received $1 million (Dh3.67m) from the Ruler of Sharjah.
The Malaysian foundation Dignity for Children will benefit from the donation, in addition to a cash prize of Dh500,000 for being named the winner of the second Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support.
Dignity for Children received the honour during an award ceremony on Thursday. The donation was given to the foundation to help their on-going efforts to offer educational and support services to the marginalised and displaced communities in Asia and the Mena region.
Elisha Satvinder, co-founder of the foundation, said: “I and my wife, Petrina, started to work with refugees around 20 years ago. We never imagined standing here. This is an amazing honour. Our work started with Mohammed Yasser, from the Rohingya. He was a 12-year-old boy who could not read or write.”
“We were the first people to teach him how to write his name.
"Teaching Yasser how to write was the first step to help him break out of the cycle of poverty. He went back home and wrote his name all over the wooden walls of his house. Also, he started writing his name on the walls of public places. It was easy to find out who he was as his name was everywhere,” Mr Satvinder.
“The next day, he decided to bring two of his friends and soon afterwards we had a class full of refugee students,” he added.
Mr Satvinder said that they managed to educate 7,000 children. Currently, many of them are living all over the world.
“One of our students, Shaheen, settled in California in the United States. She just completed her internship with Microsoft,” said Mr Satvinder.
Mr Satvinder thanked Sheikh Sultan, Ruler of Sharjah, and his wife, Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of The Big Heart Foundation and UNHCR Eminent Advocate for Refugees.
“Working with refugees is rewarding in many ways. It also has its difficulties,” said Mr Satvinder.
“Every child has the right to an education. For our foundation, it’s about providing a world class education for the underprivileged,” he added.
“Our work is behind the scene. Winning this award is significant for all those people who work tirelessly day and night with all these children.”
Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said: “Many people are doing heroic work in Asia and North Africa, but they are not well-known. This award contributes in appreciating them and for the world to know them and for their examples to be followed by others.”
Mr Grandi thanked Sheikh Sultan and Sheikha Jawaher.
“Through Sheikha Jawaher's work and humanitarian initiatives supported by the Ruler of Sharjah, more than 800,000 people over the years have been supported,” said Mr Grandi.
“Those types of initiatives and awards are important at a time when the worldly population of refugees and forcibly displaced people has reached roughly 70 million. They have been forced to leave their homes as a result of conflict and war. Those people are obliged to do one of the most difficult choices and leave behind everything they love. Yet, many people have to make this choice.”
Sheikha Jawaher said: “Illuminating the path of others is a human duty and an ethical imperative. Without this effort, life will not have any meaning. The award helps bring these human torches, who work for a better present and a brighter future, before the eyes of the world. The award highlights the stories of individuals who have suffered the conditions of forced migration, and celebrates the relentless efforts of those individuals and organisations who lead them towards happy and safe lives.”