File photo of beneficiaries of the NGO in Australia Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) in Sharjah today announced nonprofit international organisation Talent Beyond Boundaries (TBB) as the winner of the seventh edition of the Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support (SIARA 2023).

TBB is said to be the world’s first and only organisation that works on connecting refugees and individuals in need with international job opportunities, enabling them to resume their professional lives and achieve self-sufficiency by opening skilled migration pathways.

The latest edition of the Dh500,000 SIARA award selected TBB from among 423 candidates representing 41 countries worldwide. TBB has made “a significant impact” on governments in various countries, inspiring them to revise and enhance their migration programmes and visa services.

As a result of TBB’s efforts, several hosting countries such as Australia, Canada, and the UK have launched initiatives like the ‘Hiring Displaced Talents’ programme, which enables refugees to utilise their skills, educational qualifications, and work experiences in official job opportunities within these nations.

Launched in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the award is held under the patronage of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and his wife, Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of TBHF and UNHCR Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children.
SIARA has for seven years been highlighting and honouring both individual and organisational contributions, which have fulfilled not only the humanitarian needs, but also the human aspirations of refugees in the region and beyond - ranging from food security, emergency aid, shelter and other basics to those that go deeper to give displaced people the courage and confidence to regrow their roots and feel a sense of belonging again.

International job fair

The organisation is also billed as the first nonprofit to initiate an international job fair exclusively for skilled refugees and displaced individuals. Through this initiative, they connect and pair individuals with international companies and employers. Additionally, the NGO provides specialised educational, vocational, and training programmes to enhance the skills and expertise of highly qualified refugees before proceeding with employment procedures in international companies. These programs prioritise areas such as English language proficiency, computer and software training, and communication skills to ensure that individuals are well-prepared for job interviews.

Additionally, the organisation has successfully provided its services to more than 6,000 refugees. Upon completion of the job acquisition procedures, the organisation facilitates the immigration and relocation processes to the new workplace. It also ensures the provision of basic necessities such as housing, food supplies, legal guarantees, and documentation. This enables refugees to access essential healthcare services, social integration support, and other daily basic services.

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These efforts are carried out by distributed teams operating in various countries worldwide, ensuring ongoing support for refugees even after their migration and facilitating their smooth integration into new communities. Consequently, the organisation has contributed to increasing refugees’ annual income by over 750 per come. Moreover, it has established a digital platform that verifies the professional qualifications of more than 65,000 refugees worldwide.

According to TBB’s 2023 skills mapping of 65,000 refugees, 64 per cent of registrants reported having intermediate English proficiency or higher, which is a significant percentage. Additionally, 34 per cent of the registrants have completed a bachelor’s degree or higher, surpassing the global average. The top industries among refugee registrants include Skilled Trades, Industrial Engineering, Healthcare, Computer Science, and Finance.

The non-profit’s strategy came in response to reports which indicate that 12.7 million of the world’s refugees are of working age, and amongst them millions are skilled, but live in countries where they have limited rights and cannot work.

The NGO has designed skilled migration pathways in collaboration with corporates, recruiters and non-profits worldwide to connect over 1,100 refugees with companies in need of their skills, while also benefiting over 5,000 additional refugees have gained from TBB’s services and support. TBB also works closely with governments to address policy barriers and implement visa programme changes that enable more skilled refugees and their families to successfully relocate to developed economies, offering them a fresh start.

By mapping and documenting the professional backgrounds of over 65,000 refugees on their Talent Catalog, a fit-for-purpose tech platform, TBB identified in-demand workers across more than 200 occupations, and currently engages over 300 employers, from hospitality to healthcare to tech firms, to recruit refugees to fill pressing skill gaps.

‘Unconventional approaches’

TBHF Director Mariam Al Hammadi said: “Through the recognition of pioneering and unconventional approaches to refugee service, addressing their unique needs, and bringing about positive transformation in their lives, [SIARA] continues to showcase exemplary models of humanitarian work. It serves as an inspiration for individuals and institutions to embrace innovative and sustainable solutions, effectively addressing both wider humanitarian challenges and the specific obstacles that hurdle refugees."

She added: "This year, the award proudly acknowledges the outstanding efforts of [TBB] an organisation that firmly believes in the capabilities and potential of refugees and displaced people. Through their dedicated programmes and strategic plans, they have been empowering beneficiaries to provide for themselves and their families, and enjoy a multitude of choices in shaping their own future.”