SHARJAH, 27th June, 2022 (WAM) — H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, today honoured Jordan’s 7Hills for Social Development, winner of the 6th edition of the Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support (SIARA), at the House of Wisdom.
Present at the ceremony were H.H. Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah, and TBHF Humanitarian Envoy, and H.H. Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of 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 UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR); and Mohammed Zakaria, Founder of 7Hills for Social Development, addressed the ceremony at the House of Wisdom.
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 peoples which are just as important as their requirements in 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, 7Hills provides a window for young people to develop and hone their creative abilities.
Valued at AED500,000, 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 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.
In her speech at the ceremony, Mariam Al Hammadi 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 H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and the directives of H.H. Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson and Royal Patron of TBHF.”
“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.
“This is precisely what 7Hills realised when it was established by a group of young people. The non-profit understood that food, education, health, and shelter are just one aspect of the needs of refugees and so, it decided to prioritise and fulfil their creative and psychological needs to enhance their mental and emotional capabilities. One of the leading creative initiatives of 7Hills is the transformation of an unused public place into a social space for engagement, learning and integration, which has helped bring young refugees from different countries together and boosted their self-confidence, creativity, and hope,” she noted.
For his part, Ayman Gharaibeh 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 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.
“Our partnership with H.H. Sheikha Jawaher and TBHF has crossed the 10-year mark, during which the contributions of Her Highness and the Foundation have played an effective role in alleviating the plight of refugees and the displaced in many areas,” 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 3-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. According to 2021 statistics, the MENA region is home to nearly 17 million refugees, which constitutes 17 percent of the worldwide figures,” he further added.
“In light of the unprecedented increase in numbers, we must unite our efforts and devise sustainable solutions to ensure a decent living in a safe environment for refugees. Today, we come together to honour 7Hills for its role in refugee integration and empowering them through the creative arts. The efforts of 7Hills are not limited to developing the skills of children and youth in Jordan, but also contribute to promoting the values of harmony and coexistence between refugees and the host community. This is a unique way of breaking cultural, racial and societal barriers that hinder living in peace and harmony,” he noted.
During his keynote speech, Mohammed Zakaria thanked the Sharja Ruler and his wife for honouring the non-profit. 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.”
“We successfully onstructed the 7Hills skatepark in Amman in 2014 in collaboration with local and international volunteers. The project began following a local and international donation drive. Children volunteered after school to help build the park and mothers sent lunch packets for the team,” he added.