Shaikh Mohammad cheers up Saleh Al Ya'rabi, one of the recipients of the Abu Dhabi Awards, during the awards ceremony at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Al Ya'rabi is from Oman. Image Credit: WAM

Abu Dhabi:  "I felt like a princess," said Manal Mahmoud Hamad after being presented her award as hundreds of attendees applauded winners during the Abu Dhabi Awards 2010 ceremony held in the Capital on Sunday.

The prestigious awards seek to highlight contributions of people who have generously tapped into their time and energies to shape and support the community of Abu Dhabi.

After a long process that began in May 2009, 16,000 nominations for the awards were narrowed down to just nine and the winners, both Emiratis and expatriates, were each presented a golden trophy by General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council.

Wonderful way

"Words can't describe how I feel about winning this award…it's a wonderful way to honour people like myself who are helping the community in our own way," said Saleh Al Ya'rabi, a winner from Oman.

"Shaikh Zayed was the first who highlighted how great it is to help others through his acts and that was transferred to his sons who continue his great legacy…When I spoke to Shaikh Mohammad as I was receiving the prize, his words made me feel very proud and I was moved by what he said and our wonderful conversation," Al Ya'rabi said.

"When I won, all my family and friends called and congratulated me. Winning this award is great for people like me who are handicapped in one form or another because it shows that we can still contribute to society in our unique way," he added.

"It was a big surprise and honour to receive this prestigious award. It gives me more motivation to continue to do what I am doing," said Isabella Le Bon-Poonoosamy, an expatriate from the Republic of Mauritius.

"It's all about passion. I grew up in a family that was always involved in volunteering. This is something from the heart, not something that you can learn," she said.

The philanthropist has several well-known projects under her belt, including the Good Heart Foundation to raise funds for the Special Care Centre in Abu Dhabi, the non-profit organisation Nahtam, which supports a variety of local organisations in their humanitarian fund-raising campaigns and the Donate A Brick campaign, which collects donations to build a modern and fully-equipped school for children with special needs in Abu Dhabi.

School project

Once complete, the school will be the largest of its kind in the emirate, accommodating 300 students across more than 22,000 square metres. To date, the campaign has raised more than Dh8 million.

For Manal Mahmoud Hamad, a science teacher at Al Kahmael Model School in Madinat Zayed, in Al Gharbia (Western Region), who was honoured for her tireless efforts to raise environmental awareness among her students, the evening held some special memories.

"I felt like a princess…I felt special and was so happy that I received this award. It was something that I could show my female students … that if they work hard then someday they will be rewarded for their efforts," Manal, a Jordanian expatriate, said.

"My parents were with me that night, and my sister and her children. The children kept looking at the video testimony about me like they were seeing a different me…it was definitely a night I will never forget," she added, laughing.

Selfless efforts

  • Mohammad Habroosh Mohammad Al Suwaidi, UAE
  • Isabella Le Bon-Poonoosamy, Republic of Mauritius
  • Ousha Bint Khalifa Bin Ahmad Al Suwaidi, UAE
  • Late Hamouda Bin Ali Bin Ganem Bin Hamouda, UAE
  • Manal Mahmoud Hamad, Jordan
  • Dr Abdul Rahman Hassanein Makhlouf, UAE
  • Saleh Al Ya'rabi, Oman
  • Latife Younus Tabrizi, Turkey
  • Late Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Tamimi, UAE