Dubai: Nawal Al Soufi from Morocco, known as the refugee helper or Lady SOS, was announced the Arab world’s greatest ‘Arab Hope Maker’ and was rewarded with Dh1 million for her commitment in helping thousands of migrating Syrian refugees with passion.
His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, presented the prize to Al Soufi at an award ceremony on Thursday night.
.@HHShkMohd honors Nawal Soufi from Morocco with #ArabHopeMakers award for her work supporting migrants and refugees lost at sea pic.twitter.com/NIDcUp8Vb7— Dubai Media Office (@DXBMediaOffice) May 18, 2017
On the dais, Shaikh Mohammad announced that the other four finalists would also get Dh1 million each for dedicating their time to serving others.
The other four finalists were Ma’alee Al A’assousi from Kuwait, Majida Jibran from Egypt, Hisham Al Thahabi from Iraq, and The White Helmets (group) from Syria.
All five finalists shared their stories during the ceremony, which revealed the dire challenges that many people in the Arab world face, as well as their commitment and humanitarian spirit to generously give their time and effort to overcome obstacles and spread optimism and hope.
Al Soufi, who was selected the Arab Hope Maker by a panel of three judges and the audience through a voting process, managed to save the lives of 200,000 Syrian migrants fleeing to Europe across the Mediterranean Sea by sending them rescue missions once they reached out to her.
Nawal Al Soufi from Morocco is Arab world’s greatest Hope Maker
Thirty-year-old Al Soufi narrated her story before the panel of judges yesterday. She said she receives SOS calls on her mobile phone, which she keeps with her 24/7.
“I never turn it off, it is such a big responsibility for me to ensure it is kept on because that’s how they can reach me when they need my help,” she said.
“The calls I get everyday are like: we are drowning; the waves are high; please help us, we are dying. This call can change anyone’s life. The phone is part of my life now.”
Al Soufi said she cannot describe her happiness as soon as she sends them rescue and gets a call from the migrants telling her they have reached the Italian coast safely. “It means the world to me when I know that they are safe.”
The finalists were selected from among 65,000 participants from 22 countries for profoundly improving the lives of others in their communities.
Their stories showed the remarkable humanitarian works they have done to help people in their communities. Iraqi finalist Al Thahabi has dedicated the past 13 years of his life raising and training abandoned children and orphans.
He launched a creativity centre to improve their skills and adopted eight orphans, who now carry his name.
Finalist Al A’assousi from Kuwait had left her country ten years ago to live in Yemen and help those in need. She launched 30 relief programmes that have provided assistance to 250,000 people. Through her volunteering efforts, 637 children were able get free education. She also worked to help 45,000 people get access to clean water.
The Syrian Civil Defence, known as the White Helmets, also made it to the finals for the sacrifices they made saving people from under the rubble in Syrian towns. They managed to save 94,000 people, according to figures given at the ceremony.
Finalist Jibran from Egypt, an elderly Christian teacher, dedicated her life to change the lives of thousands of underprivileged children in Egypt. She helped treat 40,000 children a year and initiated the launch of 92 health care centres for children.
Launched in March 1, the initiative under the umbrella of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Global Initiatives (MBRGI) as part of the Year of Giving, the Arab Hop Makers initiative aims to shed light on the inspirational stories of people who provide hope and spread it among communities throughout the Arab world.
Various dignitaries and representatives from local and regional media attended the event, including Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Crown Prince.