Kehkashan Basu Image Credit: Supplied

First place

Published on: February 21

Shradhdha Kannappan, a Sharjah-based student has a passion for helping others, which she has worked on since the age of seven. Her latest initiative was collecting 200kg of clothes for the people of Somalia. “I love helping people and I have done things previously. This time, I was just continuing what I do. I did whatever I could by collecting clothes from my friends and neighbours.”

Her inspiration has been her mother, who has made similar efforts in the past. “I grew up looking up to my mother and then she allowed me to do it myself too.”

Kannappan had been attending school and participating in extracurricular activities but found that she still had “free time”, so she started doing charitable work. The fifth grader has managed to influence her friends and they have joined her in a number of her projects. Besides helping the needy, Kannappan is also passionate about protecting Nature, so her initiative of giving away used items, rather than trashing them serves her environmental concerns as well. Also, she is the winner of the Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Distinguished Academic Performance and donated part of her cash prize to the needy while insisting everyone to “contribute things like bags, clothes, wheelchairs and books for education. Also, a little part of their money.” Making her efforts public through platforms like Gulf News can be inspirational to others, Kannappan said. “Others will start doing it and many will follow. This way, it will be a step towards supporting the needy.”

Second place

Published on: February 12

Mishal Faraz, a pupil based in Dubai has launched her initiative called “Winshares” that aims to provide uniforms and books to the needy. She believes in passing things on to others, in order to continue the cycle of giving. She said, “Last year [2017] was the Year of Giving, so I got inspired and started this idea.” She collected used uniforms and books that are still in usable condition and passed them to others. The Indian national said, “This has an environmental benefit because the longer you use something, the longer it is out of landfills, it has a financial benefit to someone who’s saving a few dirhams and it is beneficial to the community as a whole. Also, this has been the vision of the Rulers of the UAE.” Faraz’s school has been appreciative of her visions. She said, “My school has really supported me, Winshares started as an idea and I spoke to authorities at school. Then, the principal helped me launch it.” After publishing her report in Gulf News, Faraz said, “I have been able to reach out to people and spread awareness about causes I am passionate about. My voice is being heard. Even in the future, I have a platform that I can turn to.” Her next step is to implement Winshares in other schools, communities, malls and building complexes. She has urged Gulf News readers to, “handle stuff with care, be mindful that someone else might use it in the future and don’t give to others what you wouldn’t use yourself”.

Third place

Published on: February 1

Kehkashan Basu, a 17-year-old Dubai-based pupil has been on a journey to help protect the planet and has won numerous awards for her efforts. Also, she has founded the Green Hope Foundation, which helps youth to contribute towards sustainable development. She started the initiative when she was 12 years old with her friends and now it has over 1000 members across the world. Basu said, “I want to engage as many people as possible with my message of conservation. Gulf News has a large reach in the country and publishing this report has enabled me to spread awareness to a very large audience.” She believes prompt action needs to be taken regarding conserving resources. “Wastage of resources and pollution are damaging natural ecosystems and unless we take action now, the damage can be irreversible. Our future survival is at stake and every member of civil society must take actions within their zones of influence. I have taken it upon myself to raise awareness and engage as many people as possible in our march towards a sustainable future,” she said. Basu envisions engaging children and youth from across the globe, in protecting the environment for a better future. “Too often, people think that it is someone else’s responsibility to save our planet and this is the root cause of the current state of affairs. I want to change this attitude and writing to Gulf News enables me to bring about this change,” she added.

Special mention

Published on: February 5

Mohammad Ejaz, Sharjah-based Pakistani national tries to be a responsible resident whenever he can. With a sharp vision for keeping the Emirates clean, he has written multiple times to Gulf News about the community’s responsibilities. He has been particularly expressive of his concerns regarding people who litter around the city, despite authorities providing designated facilities, like trash cans. “It looks nice when the city is clean. People should be taught to keep it that way. I see empty cups everywhere despite the government providing everything,” he said. Ejaz is appreciative of platforms for the community to voice their concerns. He said, “Gulf News gets my voice across. All my friends call me after my reports get published.” To keep the environment tidy, “people need to cooperate with the authorities because they are spending a lot of money,” Ejaz said. Regarding his community reporting, the 63-year-old said: “Since such a wide community is reached through Gulf News, I will surely use this platform in the future, to write about such issues.”

Special mention

Published on: February 22

Nora Jamal Sanad Al Suwaidi is an Emarati, based in Abu Dhabi with a drive to comfort the needy. As the Director General of Cancer Patient Care Society – Rahma, she travelled to Jordan to visit a Syrian refugee camp. “It was an honour and blessing to go there and see what my country has done,” she said. She believes that “giving is the way forward in life” and “you don’t need a title to give back.” Al Suwaidi is particularly passionate about cancer patients because her father is a survivor of the illness. “My father also did humanitarian work and was afraid for the patients who weren’t well-off like him,” she said. After publishing her community report in Gulf News, she said, “Many people called me, asking how they should give back. It has led me to meet them and give them initiatives.” Through actions such as publishing stories, she said she believes the youth will be inspired. She is also passionate about enabling women. Al Suwaidi said, “Arab women should know that they don’t need a job or title to help. The point is to give back, it doesn’t have to cost anything. For example being compassionate towards someone is free of cost.” Explaining the importance of what she does, Al Suwaidi said that “doctors can only do so much and hospitals are built to treat people” however, she is there to provide “psychological, social, financial and emotional support”. Talking about instilling a culture of voluntarism within the youth, Al Suwaidi said, “I believe, there should be compulsory humanitarian work that students would need to do in order to graduate. It’s hard to change policies but that is my vision.”