Dubai: What started as a personal crusade has become an international charity work and mission of hope for Emirati philanthropist and businessman Ahmed Al Falasi, 60, who was recently declared as the 2020 Arab Hope Maker.
Al Falasi’s mother died of kidney failure. “She had struggled for years during her treatment but during those bouts with kidney dialysis, her generosity and compassion were always present. On the day she passed away, she was handing out money to the nurses and medical workers who attended to her,” Al Falasi shared.
He got inspiration from his mother and his grief was turned into a humanitarian mission. Al Falasi then visited hospitals in Kenya to see the condition of kidney patients.
“On a visit to Kenya, I was shocked to find ragged beds and patients on the waiting list for months before they could receive their kidney dialysis. One bed sometimes accommodated two people,” he shared.
He also found the hospital desperately in need of better equipment, including dialysis machines and incubators for premature babies, to reduce mortality rate and provide better health care.
“Most (dialysis) machines were 25 to 27 years old and used by hundreds of people every month,” Al Falasi said.
He continued: “I once saw an elderly woman and it felt like I was talking to my own mother and she told me she needed to undergo a dialysis.”
That encounter left an indelible mark on Al Falasi’s heart and mind which moved him to help refurbish the Coast General Hospital in Mombasa and transform it into one of the most advanced medical facilities in Kenya.
On a visit to Kenya, I was shocked to find ragged beds and patients on the waiting list for months before they could receive their kidney dialysis. One bed sometimes accommodated two people.
Al Falasi kept a low profile and used money from his own pocket to help set up a kidney dialysis section that has supported 8,000 patients. He also established a new born unit with 570 beds and incubators to benefit around 17,000 newborns monthly.
He also constructed deep wells for irrigation and built houses for people affected by annual floods in Mombasa.
His work, however, was not limited to Mombasa. He expanded his charity work in some cities in China, where he established a school, an orphanage and a trust fund to support needy families.
A role model to his family, Al Falasi included his wife and daughter in all his humanitarian work.
Al Falasi told Gulf News he was hesitant at first to join the search for Arab Hope Maker, an annual award launched in 2017 by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, honouring people for their humanitarian projects.
“I wanted to keep my work low profile but my family and friends convinced me to tell the world about our work. By winning the award, I hope I can inspire and encourage more people to help others,” he said.
Al Falasi’s story of hope topped a whopping 92,000 entries from 38 countries, including 15 Arab countries.
During the awarding ceremony held on Thursday at the Coca-Cola Arena in City Walk Dubai, Shaikh Mohammed said: “Hope Makers are the real champions of giving and inspirational examples of leaders taking the initiative to make a positive difference in other people’s lives.”
“They sincerely help others without seeking recognition or personal gains, setting a great example for others on turning challenges into opportunities. “Through working for their communities, Hope Makers lead a positive societal movement that supports development and restores faith in the future of the Arab world,” Shaikh Mohammed added.
As Al Falasi received the award from Shaikh Mohammed, he also dedicated the accolade to the UAE leadership for their efforts in supporting his humanitarian efforts.
“Shaikh Mohammed told me to help people, regardless of their nationality or religion. If someone needs help, don’t hesitate to give it to them.”
Al Falasi said he will use the Dh1 million prize money he received to buy more modern hospital equipment but more importantly he wanted to use his voice to spread the message of charity and hope.