Dr Shaikh Sultan presents the award to Elisha Satwinder and his wife Petrina, founders of Children for Dignity, at the awards ceremony in Sharjah yesterday. Filippo Grandi is present. Image Credit: Atiq ur Rehman/Gulf News

Sharjah: His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, has donated $1 million to the Malaysian foundation ‘Dignity for Children’ to bolster its efforts to offer educational and support services to the marginalised and displaced communities in Asia and Mena region.

The donation was made at the awards ceremony of the second Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support. Dignity for Children won the award in recognition of its role in helping thousands of families in Sentul, Malaysia, by providing a safe environment for their children’s education.

The foundation was honoured with the prestigious international award in recognition of its philanthropic efforts over the past two decades in supporting refugees and investing in younger generations by providing them with the necessary resources to pursue their academic education to become active partners in changing the reality of their communities.

The award is organised by Sharjah-based global humanitarian charity The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Shaikha Jawaher Bint Mohammad Al Qasimi, Wife of the Ruler of Sharjah, Chairperson of TBHF and UNHCR Eminent Advocate for Refugees was also present during the award ceremony.

Congratulating Dignity for Children for winning the award, Shaikha Jawaher said that the value of humanitarian work lies in its neutrality, continuity and impact — the core values that have echoed in the Foundation’s efforts for the past 20 years.

She said the foundation have worked relentlessly to save the lives of displaced children and refugees from ignorance and poverty, and given them not just educational opportunities, but have also helped them find opportunities to use that education to seek employment and contribute to their communities.

“Illuminating the path of others is a human duty and an ethical imperative. Without this effort, life will not have any meaning. The importance of this award is that helps bring these human torches, who work for a better present and a brighter future, before the eyes of the world,” she said.

She added that 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, overcoming the past and look with hope towards a better future.”

The award – a cash prize of Dh500,000 and a trophy – were received by Elisha Satvinder and his wife Petrina, founders of Children for Dignity Foundation.

Satvinder outlined the foundation’s long journey in humanitarian action for refugees and the displaced. He spoke about his and his wife’s personal experiences while teaching a young Rohingya refugee, Mohammed Yaseen, 12 years old when they met. This boy, he said, and many others couldn’t write their names or read, but the education they received from the Satvinders has taken them to universities.

“Our work started as an informal place for education and learning, and over the past 20 years blossomed into the largest and most comprehensive education centre for refugee children in Southeast Asia,” he said.

Every year, he added, they welcomed around 900 refugee children to be educated.

“At Dignity, every child has the right to quality education, and our goal is to offer world-class training to the underprivileged. We believe that each child has the potential to grow into a world-changer – people who will impact and change their communities, cities and nations.”

Meanwhile, Filippo Grande, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, stressed on the importance of the award in its celebration of the great humanitarian contributions of individuals and organisations who have dedicated their lives to offering a better future to the most marginalised groups in the world.

He thanked Sheikha Jawaher for her leading humanitarian efforts, and huge support to various foundations active in offering lifesaving and rehabilitation services to the internally displaced and refugees, pointing out that her leadership in the field has enabled the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to offer support to over 800,000 refugees around the world.

He also said that this celebration comes at the right time, and offers a glimpse of hope to over 70 million refugees around the world today, most of who belong to Middle Eastern and Asian nations like Syria, Yemen, Malaysia, and others.

The award was launched last year by Shaikha and comes in line with Sharjah’s efforts to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced persons around the world.