His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed AlQasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah honoured Talent Beyond Boundaries (TBB), the winner of the 7th edition of the Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support (SIARA 2023) in the presence of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) and Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children at UNHCR, during the award ceremony was held on Wednesday, June 14, 2023, at the Sharjah Police Science Academy.
Jawaher Al Qasimi: Goodness is a culture, an awareness, and a daily decision we don’t back down from.
The ceremony started with the UAE national anthem, and a video screening about SIARA, followed by the opening speech of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi, who said: “On behalf of TBHF and personally, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah for his unwavering support of this award and his commitment to its continuity and development in achieving its goals. At a time when conflicts, disasters, tragedies, poverty and displacement are rampant, God’s wisdom creates balance in this universe and leaves us with the choice to be the helping hand in times of hardship. Therefore, you should be proud because you have carried the responsibility of goodness and made it a way of life”.
“Goodness is not a fleeting or an isolated act, but rather a culture, an awareness, and daily decision we do not back down from, and are proud to see our work bearing fruit in the lives of others. We want to see our efforts turn into a smile on a child’s face, a source of knowledge for a young mind, care for a family weakened by circumstances, and a future full of hope for the younger generations. This is how we understand goodness, and this is why we launched SIARA. It serves as a reminder that this goodness has creative people behind it and continues to provide inspiring models of hope and giving to the world,” Her Highness added.
Her Highness concluded the opening speech by encouraging good willing and kind hearted people to always be hopeful, pointing out that support will continue as the mission is not yet over.
Mariam Al Hammadi: We choose to stand by refugees driven by love and willingness
Mariam Al Hammadi, Director of TBHF noted: “Today we meet in a different competitive context – a competition that celebrates goodness and is dedicated to promoting the good. Each nominee is a winner, although only one can be crowned. Our collective commitment to choosing to do good is a significant triumph in its own right because it is a commitment to respecting the rights of human beings, a commitment of love, giving and cooperation. This free and conscious choice has shaped the global humanitarian sector. If refugees had no choice in deciding their forced fates of injustice, we in Sharjah, led by His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher, have chosen to stand by them out of love and willingness”.
She added: “The SIARA award shines light on role models supporting refugees and providing new opportunities and beginnings. Such distinguished models need the world to stand by them, so their impact extends from one refugee to thousands and millions around the world.”
Al Hammadi congratulated TBB, asserting that the organisation has worked hard, innovated, achieved its goals, and turned the spotlight on facts that the world may have overlooked, which is that many refugees possess abilities, talents, visions, and aspirations that make them a real asset to host communities if invested in the right way. She applauded the efforts of TBHF’s committee who selected the winner of this year’s edition of SIARA.
Khaled Khalifa: TBHF has improved the lives of over a million refugees
For his part, His Excellency Khaled Khalifa, Senior Advisor to the High Commissioner and UNHCR, Representative to Gulf Cooperation Council Countries
expressed his appreciation and gratitude to His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and his wife, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher, an Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children at UNHCR and a visionary leader with a big heart, visionary insight and generous contributions of around USD 30 million since 2013, which have helped to improve the living conditions of more than one million refugees around the world.
He said: “Refugees are not just numbers; they are doctors, engineers, skilled workers, and software developers. Many have skills but lack opportunities as they find themselves in countries where they are not allowed to work. By involving governments, the private sector, and non-profit organisations, we create safe pathways that enable refugees to transition to work, resume their professions, and rebuild their lives.” He congratulated TBB for winning the 7th edition SIARA and lauded THF’s efforts and the teams helping refugees, turning the spotlight light on their suffering, providing the necessary support, and bringing hope and joy to their hearts.
The award ceremony saw another video screening about TBB’s key efforts, achievements and success stories in helping skilled and talented refugees and displaced people.
Stephany Cousins: We dedicate our win to forcibly displaced refugees around the world
Stephany Cousins, Global CEO of TBB, expressed her gratitude and appreciation to the wise leadership of Sharjah and their visionary initiative in establishing the coveted SIARA Award, as well as to TBHF and the UNHCR for their steadfast commitment and tireless efforts to ensure its continued success every year. She emphasised: “Refugees possess skills and aspirations and can positively impact the work environment, economies, and societies when given the right opportunity and allowed to migrate to places that need their skills and experiences. At the same time, this positive impact can be extended to refugee families and communities in their country of origin during reconstruction”.
She added: “We have succeeded in helping more than 1,200 refugees find sustainable solutions to their displacement, which is a small part compared to the achievements we will make with your support. A single organisation can’t find a solution for refugees and displaced persons, as it requires collective efforts and radical changes in systems and practices. I am honoured to dedicate this award to refugees and forcibly displaced individuals around the world who seek to practise their professions and achieve their dreams in the darkest conditions and challenges. Together, we will build a world where refugees and displaced persons can migrate safely and peacefully to work.”
Yusra Mardini: The award embodies the values of generosity and kindness that represent the UAE and its people
On being a refugee, Yusra Mardini, a swimmer in the Olympic Refugee Team and a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, said: “I went through the ordeal of seeking refuge in 2015 and suffered its harshness, which is why the UNHCR and the initiatives of TBHF and Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi hold a special place in my heart. Her Highness is a truly inspiring role model who has tirelessly advocated for refugees over the years and actively champions the cause of UNHCR.”
She added: “With the increasing numbers of refugees worldwide, it may be easy to forget that they are real people with stories that speak of their resilience in the face of crises, aspirations, and dreams that bring a bright glimmer of hope. As a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, I have been able to tell my story and other stories of refugees I have met throughout my journey. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to shed light on our stories to raise awareness about the refugee issue around the world.”
She congratulated TBB and thanked His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi for supporting SIARA which exemplifies the ethics and values of goodness and hospitality of the UAE and the Emirati people.
Talent Beyond Boundaries: An innovative vision in supporting humanitarian efforts.
TBB received AED 500,000 from TBHF in recognition of its role and innovative vision in supporting humanitarian efforts for more than 6000 refugees worldwide. The organisation has collaborated with corporates, recruiters and non-profits worldwide to connect over 1,200 refugees with companies in need of their skills while also benefiting over 5,000 additional refugees who have gained from TBB’s services and support, and organed an International Job Fair exclusively for skilled refugees and displaced individuals. The organisation has also made a significant impact on governments in various countries, inspiring them to revise and enhance their migration programmes and visa services.
TBB’s efforts are carried out by 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%. Moreover, it has established a digital platform that verifies the professional qualifications of more than 65,000 refugees worldwide.
Along with His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, The award ceremony was attended ((held in the presence of)) by Sheikh Mohammed bin Humaid bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, Chairman of Sharjah’s Department of Statistics and Community Development (DSCD); Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Sharjah Charity International (SCI); Sheikha Hind bint Majid Al Qasimi, Chairperson of Sharjah Business Women Council (SBWC); Sheikh Salem bin Muhammad bin Salem Al Qasimi, Director of Sharjah Commerce & Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA); Sheikha Jawaher bint Abdullah Al Qasimi, Director of FUNN; and a host of a number of high-ranking officials, ministers and heads of government departments and agencies, representatives of humanitarian organisations, and media.
The SIARA award ceremony was sponsored by Bee’ah Group, the Gold Sponsor of SIARA; Sharjah Police Science Academy and Arada Developments, the Venue Sponsors; Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), the Tourist Sponsor; in addition to Air Arabia and ION, the sustainable and intelligent transportation company as the Transportation Sponsors; along with the Hospitality Sponsor Doubletree by Hilton Sharjah Waterfront Hotel & Residences.