Ramadan Suhoor gathering highlights the deeply human impact of social responsibility partnerships

Ramadan Suhoor gathering highlights the deeply human impact of social responsibility partnerships

The University of Manchester Middle East Centre chose to mark the Holy Month of Ramadan by celebrating the gift of giving with a Suhoor dinner gathering in the presence of students, alumni, families and friends, and staff of the University, alongside the Centre’s social responsibility partners. All the partners were able to present their distinctive contributions to the community and guests were invited to join and support their efforts through the University partnerships, or directly. It was a remarkable evening during which guests learned more about social responsibility, the transformational impact it can make on people’s lives (both recipients and providers of support) and they even heard the personal stories from some of those who have benefitted.

The Middle East Centre took the opportunity to highlight the latest regional social responsibility collaborations, while tracing others back to 2021 when the Centre celebrated its 15th anniversary and launched its ‘15 for 15’ campaign (15 social responsibility activities for the 15 years of the Centre’s existence). The Centre’s 2024 Ramadan initiatives were presented as a chance to donate and volunteer (and the opportunities remain open all year) and specifically to support The Iftar Project with Beit Al-Khair Society; Eid clothing initiative for children in need with Emirates Red Crescent; Gaza in our Hearts with Dubai Cares; the Ramadan Mir project with Emirates Red Crescent; 200 Iftar meals distribution at the Jebel Ali labour camp; and a visit to Senses Residential and Day Care for Special Needs.

The audience heard more about Make a Wish Foundation in Saudi Arabia for children with critical illness (CEO Dr Tariq Alhogbani is currently studying on the Manchester Executive MBA programme); The Sparkle Foundation’s work to support and educate children in Malawi; Al Noor Training Centre for Persons with Disabilities, and Senses Residential and Day Care for Special Needs, both in Dubai.

The founder of the Maria Conceicao Foundation (supporting families and children in Bangladesh) was unable to attend in person but surprised and honoured guests with the introduction at the event of five of the young people the Foundation is supporting. From the stage, the group described their experiences and the impact that the Foundation – and Maria personally – had made on their lives.

“I met Maria in 2007 and from that moment my life changed – she became my mom and she became our mom. She came to our slum and we thought she was an angel. One of my sisters is in Portugal doing her master’s degree because of Maria. I am working in Chanel as an intern – making my dreams come true – and I’m a student at Heriot Watt University, as well. She has turned me into a smile boy from a slum boy.”

Maria’s inspiring personal story begins with a question: How far would you go to honour a promise to a stranger? Maria was born into poverty and abandoned as a child but became an Emirates stewardess and is now one of the world’s best known female endurance athletes and holder of 10 Guinness World Records – all designed to help raise funds. Her foundation developed from a visit to Bangladesh where she promised to help families and especially their children. The foundation currently has 95 children in the UAE, and others studying master’s degrees in Portugal and Australia. The group has just welcomed 10 more students to the UAE and 50 more will arrive this year.

In introducing his Alumni Impact testimony at the event, Rajesh Garg – Group CFO and Chief Sustainability Officer at the Landmark Group based in Dubai – commented that it was amazing to see the kids from Maria’s foundation and expressed “how lucky Landmark was to have hired 23 of the kids last year – and hired two more today.” As he explained: “We want this to be a regular flow – it’s a transformational journey but unless they get jobs and land on their feet, their journey is incomplete. We are very proud to have done a small bit.”

The University of Manchester Middle East Centre is committed to making a positive impact on society and the environment and is always looking for new partners and initiatives to support. Hiba Abbassi, Careers and Alumni Relations Manager at the Centre, said: “We started the 15 for 15 social responsibility initiative for our 15th anniversary and we have continued to develop this. We have planted over 2,000 trees in the region with the help of alumni. We have also committed to support sustainability and have supported our partner DGrade on the circular economy initiative. Our activities with The Sparkle Foundation and Senses Residential and Day Care for Special Needs have helped raise awareness of their extraordinary work. With Dubai Cares, we are helping to build a school as part of the adopt a school programme; we have now reached our goal of raising over AED170,000 to build a three-class school in Nepal for over 100 pupils. We are proud and delighted to
announce that construction will start during Ramadan and we will be sharing progress reports and photos, as construction proceeds. We have invited our social responsibility partners here today and also shared Ramadan activities which may need some help and support through volunteering. We invite you to join us and to take part in the spirit of giving back to the community.”