3 people making a difference through their deeds
Husain Nalwala, Saira Sayed and Sinan Al Awsi Image Credit: Supplied

Building a haven

UAE-based industrialist Husain Nalwala is currently occupied with an avocation not exactly related to his business. He spends his days sifting through hundreds of bios of people. His mission: to identify appropriate candidates who desire to spend their evening years in the Senior Citizen Home that he is constructing in Boisar, Mumbai.

Husain has established The Nalwala Foundation which will be running the activities of the old age home in India.

The foundation’s mission is to help seniors who may be facing isolation, neglect, or have been entirely abandoned by their families.

- Husain Nalwala

Set to throw open its doors to the elderly next month (May 2023), the centre aims to provide a secure and comfortable environment for destitute senior citizens, where they can receive attention, care, and love.

‘The foundation’s mission is to help seniors who may be facing isolation, neglect, or have been entirely abandoned by their families,’ says Husain.

Any senior citizen from any part of India can request for an accommodation in the centre. The five-storey building spanning over 13,000 sq ft, can accommodate 125 people.

‘Initially, we are planning to start operations with 50 people,’ says Husain. Residents will receive food, accommodation, basic medical care, recreational facilities, and spiritual spaces, totally free of cost and with no donations, says Hussain, 76, the President of Anchor Allied, one of the largest manufacturers of sealants, sprays, and allied products in the Middle East with five factories in the UAE. Since his retirement two years ago, he has been involved in various philanthropic activities.

Husain’s desire to help the needy stems from an incident that occured during his childhood when he witnessed his father giving money to a stranger who came to their house in the middle of the night seeking food and help. He remembers his father saying that “No one should ever have to sleep hungry.”

‘I have been trying to abide by that principle ever since,’ says Husain.

The senior citizen home that he established has been a dream he has been nursing since the past four decades. Around 45 years ago, he lived next to an old folks’ home run in Andheri (Mumbai) that was run by nuns. Interacting closely with them, he felt that if he ever had the money and resources, he would take up a similar project someday.

All applications for the care home are carefully reviewed to ensure that only those who are truly destitute and in need of a home are selected.

Food will be prepared on-site to meet the dietary needs of elderly people, and a doctor will be available for rounds twice every week. Specialist doctors will be invited to conduct camps for the inmates periodically. There will be yoga classes thrice a week to keep them fit physically and spiritually, he says.

Husain has already identified a few people who have requested for space in the home. One of them, a glasscutter from Indore, is divorced and abandoned by his children. He was fired from his job after he turned up for work inebriated.

Husain Image Credit: Supplied

Hussain has promised to give him a home, provided he never resorts to drinking again. His progress will be monitored, and treated for alcoholism after which Hussain plans to talk to his family and try to patch things up with them.

Another aged couple who are toy makers and live in very poor conditions on a meagre income, have also been selected to live in the facility.

The inhabitants who are qualified will also be made self-sufficient by providing them with jobs within the facility. For instance, a 65-year-old woman who worked in a bank for 33 years but was left homeless after retirement, will handle the administration work of the foundation.

The day-to-day activities of the facility will be overseen by a team from NESH Welfare Foundation, an NGO based in Mumbai. Hussain himself plans to spend a few days every month at the facility to interact with the members and be one amongst them.

Hussain is very thankful to his family, especially his wife Nafisa, who is very supportive in all his endeavours. ‘My main objective is to bring smiles to the faces of those who have been dealt a raw deal in life,’ he says. He wants the elderly residents to live a fulfilling life in their twilight years and forget the hardships they encountered earlier, as “In Islam, even a smile is a form of charity.”

The Nalwala Foundation is looking for applicants from across India. Husain can be contacted on Schome2023@gmail.com or Whatsapp +91 93214 47720.

Determined to train

Indian expat Saira Sayed was barely 16 when she was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy, a genetic condition that does not have a cure. It started with muscle loss and progressively affected her ability to run or climb stairs. After almost a year of being passed on to different doctors, she got a final diagnosis in 2007. Currently, she is wheelchair enabled after her condition worsened.

People of determination (POD) do not overcome a disability; we live with the disability throughout our lifetime and improvise around it and do the best we can

- Saira Sayed

‘People of determination (POD) do not overcome a disability; we live with the disability throughout our lifetime and improvise around it and do the best we can,’ says Saira, who is certified in Human Resource Management, and Diversity Equity and Inclusion Strategy from the University of Cambridge Judge Business School.

She came to UAE 14 years ago after her marriage to Usman Khalid who works in Dubai Municipality. In October 2019, through social media, Saira discovered ImInclusive, a community initiative launched by siblings Hafsa and Ahmed Qadeer in partnership with the Abu Dhabi government. Hafsa invited Saira to join their team as a volunteer, and she grabbed the opportunity.

‘I have participated in the growth of ImInclusive into a government-certified social enterprise. I am truly honoured to be part of the founding team and have since grown into my role as Director; I genuinely enjoy what we are building together,’ she says.

As Director of Opportunities, her primary responsibilities include managing and interacting with the two stakeholders – employers and job seekers. She also connects with POD opportunity seekers looking for full-time, part-time, freelance, internships, and volunteer roles. Guidance and mentorship are provided to PODs, who aim to scale their ideas and become entrepreneurs.

Every day she coaches around eight PODs who are on their pathway to financial independence through career growth. She and her team understand their requirements regarding job roles they’d be willing to explore, their skills, and their needs to access the role.

‘My job is mainly about sharing my knowledge,’ she explains. ‘With my experience, I show them how to break internal and external barriers. During Ramadan, our hearts are open to being beneficial to the community. I choose to contribute my knowledge continuously.’

For more info visit iminclusive.com

Green fingers

For Sinan Al Awsi, a 61-year-old Iraqi expat in Dubai, Ramadan as a time to work harder and engage in more righteous acts, rather than just fasting, feasting and sleeping. His inspiration comes from the teachings in the Quran to work harder this Holy month and focus more on creating beauty in the world.

Sinan has planted 114 Naranj trees along Sheikh Fatima Bint Mubarak Street and Mohammed Bin Khalifa Street. Image Credit: Supplied

To this end, he spends his time during Ramadan in his garden, which consists of two areas of public land outside his building on Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Street (Mushrif Road). Through his diligent efforts, these previously barren spaces have been transformed into lush green areas featuring a variety of plants including bougainvillea and date palms, as well as Naranj and Yas trees from Iraq, and jasmine shrubs from India and Thailand.

Since Friday met up with Sinan three years ago, he has become more dedicated to enhancing the landscape in his area. He feels a greater sense of responsibility now that he has gained recognition for his efforts, which has boosted his self-confidence. ‘In fact, some of my friends have asked me to do the landscaping for their homes,’ he says.

Although he lost his job as a construction engineer eight months ago, he is happy that he gets to spend more than three hours a day, tending to his garden. His work goes beyond just the small plots in front of his house.

He has planted 114 Naranj trees along Sheikh Fatima Bint Mubarak Street and Mohammed Bin Khalifa Street.

If any of the plants are struggling, he replants them and fixes their soil. He has even established a nursery for spider lily plants to share with his friends. “Sometimes I feel thirsty and tired since its Ramadan.

‘But the beauty of the plants and the joy they bring to people, keep me going at my task.” he says.