Award Sharjah
His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi presents the Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support at the House of Wisdom in Sharjah today. Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, honoured Jordan’s 7Hills for Social Development, winner of the sixth edition of Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support (SIARA), today at the House of Wisdom, in the presence of Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah and TBHF Humanitarian Envoy. The award ceremony was also attended by Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, Chairperson of The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) and UNHCR Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children.

Moderated by senior anchor Mayssoun Azzam, the ceremony saw the participation of a host of senior officials, media personnel and representatives of humanitarian organisations from around the world.

Mariam Al Hammadi, director of TBHF; Ayman Gharaibeh, regional director for MENA at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); and Mohammed Zakaria, founder of 7Hills for Social Development, addressed the ceremony at the House of Wisdom.

Zakaria later told Gulf News: “We are proud of it. After eight years of work we have reached this stage. We started with a group as volunteers and came up with an idea. Now, we have arrived in Sharjah and are honoured by the Ruler of Sharjah. The award gives us a moral push forward, in addition to financial support. The financial support we got from the award will give us a good boost in implementing the programmes and absorbing more numbers — thanks to Dr Sheikh Sultan and Sheikha Jawaher for this recognition.”

Creative empowerment

The 2022 edition of SIARA was awarded to Jordan’s 7Hills for Social Development in recognition of its pioneering role in facilitating the integration of young refugees and fulfilling the emotional and psychological needs of refugees and displaced people, which are just as important as their requirements of food, health and shelter.

With its young team, the organisation supports socio-economic and cultural cohesion and works towards fulfilling the unmet emotional and intellectual needs of refugees through its specially-designed activities. 7Hills has succeeded in implementing several creative projects and informal edutainment programmes to enrich beneficiaries including varied age groups of children, youth and parents. In addition, with its innovative strategy of transforming unused public spaces into safe creative places, 7 Hills provides a window for young people to develop and hone their creative abilities.

Valued at Dh500,000, the SIARA prize money is a special contribution by TBHF and does not represent any share of the individual and organisational donations made to the foundation.

The will to live, creating hope

The award ceremony was inspired by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish’s quote, “We love life whenever we can”, reflecting the will of the displaced and refugees to live, despite their unfortunate circumstances. In line with this message, the theme of the award ceremony called on refugees to create hope and achieve inner peace, to sing, paint, play, dream and share safe spaces with the community, and to carry on with their lives by breaking free of the psychological or physical pain caused by wars, conflicts, or natural disasters.

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Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi with Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi and other dignitaries at the award ceremony. Image Credit: Supplied

Transcending traditional charity

Mariam Al Hammadi, the director of TBHF, said: “Today, we are honouring a creative humanitarian organisation that transcends the limits of a traditional charitable approach in its efforts to touch the souls and conscience of refugees and less-fortunate people and, in doing so, supports the desire of communities to foster their integration and drive social change. Honouring 7Hills is a testament to SIARA’s mandate, which is inspired by the vision of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, and the directives of Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi.”

“A creative, community-based approach is vital to elevate the lives of refugees, and by honouring humanitarian organisations that adopt non-traditional strategies, TBHF aims to assist them in fulfilling the financial, emotional and intellectual needs of refugees. Neglecting their emotional needs will drive refugees into isolation and ignores their fundamental desire to engage with and form bonds with host communities. To love their lives, refugees must be able to live a life they love so that they can bestow it with the most beautiful and creative things,” she added.

Regional and international platform

Ayman Gharaibeh, regional director of UNHCR’s MENA Bureau, stressed that SIARA is a regional and international platform that highlights outstanding humanitarian efforts undertaken by organisations around the world. It also provides a unique opportunity to shine a light on the lives of refugees and the displaced — their plight, the challenges they face, as well as their determination and hope for a better future.

He said: “The world is witnessing an unprecedented increase in the number of people forced to flee their homes, which has surpassed 100 million as of May 2022. This is an important indicator of the human tragedy exacerbating over the years. We are saddened when we remember that UNHCR was established in 1951 with a three-year mandate — as the world thought that the displacement problems would end in a short period. However, UNHCR still exists today and spares no effort to help refugees and the displaced.”

Investing in the community

During his keynote speech, Mohammed Zakaria, founder of 7Hills, thanked His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and his wife, Her Highness, for honouring the non-profit organisation. He said: “Happiness shared is doubled — this is the philosophy that we follow in our work, which commenced when a group of people with a passion for transforming urban spaces came together to create unique spaces that fulfil the personal needs and drive community engagement.”

Arada, a property development company based in Sharjah; Tilal Properties, a premier master developer in Sharjah; and BEEAH Group, the region’s leading sustainability pioneer, were the main sponsors of the 2022 SIARA award ceremony.