UAE gives $4.5 million to US schools hit by hurricane

The money will go to pay for technology at 30 public schools in New Jersey, which was damaged in the storm that devastated America's east coast last October.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, left, his wife Mary Pat Christie, and Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE Ambassador to the United States, visit a school in Highlands, New Jersey. AP Photo
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DUBAI // The UAE is giving US$4.5 million to 30 schools in New Jersey hit by Hurricane Sandy, the storm that devastated America's east coast last October.

The money, just over Dh16.5m, will pay for technology hardware and faster internet connections in classrooms and laptops and tablets for pupils and teachers.

"In the UAE, we were amazed by the resilience, grit and determination that was shown by the citizens of this state," the UAE ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba said in a speech outside Highlands Elementary School in New Jersey.

"As a friend of the United States, and of New Jersey, we were moved to try and help, even if it was in some small way."

The New Jersey governor Chris Christie said the children would know where the aid had come from. "The kids who will benefit from this for years to come will have their friends in the United Arab Emirates to thank for it," he said.

The cash will go to the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund run by Mary Pat Christie, the governor's wife, which has collected $38m from 29,000 donors worldwide.

The hurricane, Superstorm Sandy, caused $40m in damage to schools in New Jersey alone. The aid is expected to push technology in New Jersey schools beyond where they were before.

Mr Christie said: "While our state has made great strides to reopen our schools, this donation will undoubtedly relieve some of the burden placed on New Jersey's hardest-hit towns and help enhance our students' use of technology as they enjoy a normal return to school this fall.

"On behalf of the people of New Jersey, I want to thank ambassador Al Otaiba and the UAE Embassy for this generous and important donation."

The UAE has spent $2.8 billion in disaster relief in 28 countries, and it is not the first time it has donated a significant amount to the US.

In 2011, after a mile-wide tornado tore through Joplin, Missouri, the UAE paid for a MacBook laptop for each of the town's 2,200 school pupils. In addition, the country put up $5m to build a neonatal intensive care unit at Mercy Hospital, which was also hit by the tornado.

In 2005, the UAE donated $100m to help the repair efforts after Hurricane Katrina, which caused $80bn worth of damage to New Orleans. The aid at the time led to praise from the US ambassador to the UAE.

Jim Krane, an Arabian Gulf analyst at the University of Cambridge, said the contributions had boosted the UAE's profile among US citizens.

"The UAE wants to be seen as a strong friend of America," he said. "This has helped people in the US see the UAE and the Middle East in a new light.

"The relationship between the UAE and the US just keeps tightening and it's policies like this that are driving that."

The US ambassador to the UAE, Michael Corbin, said: "The United States and the UAE have long had a close and enduring friendship, and the UAE's donation of $4.5m to the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund this week is evidence that our friendship is strong and will extend well into the future."