Ruler of Sharjah honors Jordan’s 7 hills for social development, winners of 6th edition of SIARA

  • Ayman Gharaibeh: “UNHCR’s partnership with His Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi and TBHF has passed the 10-year mark and has alleviated the plight of millions of refugees and displaced people.
  • Mohammed Zakaria: “We started as a group of people with a common passion for creating unique spaces that meet personal needs and stimulate community engagement.”

Sharjah: His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, paid tribute to Jordan’s 7Hills for Social Development, winner of the 6th edition of the Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support (SIARA), today, Monday, June 27, 2022 at the House of Wisdom, in the presence of His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Deputy Governor of Sharjah and Humanitarian Envoy of TBHF, also attended the award ceremony and Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, President of The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) and prominent UNHCR advocate for refugee children.

Moderated by the main presenter, Mayssoun Azzam, the ceremony saw the participation of a crowd of senior officials, journalists and representatives of humanitarian organizations from around the world.

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

Creative empowerment programs

The 2022 edition of the Sharjah International Award for Advocacy and Support to Refugees (SIARA) has been awarded to 7Hills for Social Development of Jordan in recognition of its pioneering role in facilitating the integration of young refugees and the satisfaction the emotional and psychological needs of refugees and displaced persons which are just as important as their food, health and shelter needs.

With its young team, the organization supports socio-economic and cultural cohesion and works to meet the unmet emotional and intellectual needs of refugees through its specially designed activities. 7Hills has successfully implemented several creative projects and informal edutainment programs to enrich beneficiaries, including various age groups of children, young people and parents. Additionally, through its innovative strategy of transforming unused public spaces into safe places to create, 7 Hills offers young people a window to develop and hone their creative abilities.

Valued at AED 500,000, the SIARA Prize is a special contribution from TBHF and does not represent any share of individual and organizational 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 displaced people and refugees to live, despite their unfortunate circumstances. In line with this message, the theme of the awards 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 pursue their life by freeing themselves. psychological or physical pain caused by wars, conflicts or natural disasters.

Humanitarian organization that transcends traditional charity

In her speech at the ceremony, Mariam Al Hammadi, Director of TBHF, said: “Today we pay tribute to a creative humanitarian organization that transcends the boundaries of a traditional charitable approach in its efforts to reach souls and the conscience of refugees and the less fortunate. people and, in doing so, supports the desire of communities to promote their integration and drive social change. Honoring 7Hills is a testament to SIARA’s mandate which draws on the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and the directives of His Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, president. and royal patron of TBHF.

“A creative, community-based approach is key to improving the lives of refugees, and by honoring humanitarian organizations that adopt non-traditional strategies, TBHF aims to help them meet the financial, emotional and intellectual needs of refugees. Neglecting their emotional needs will lead refugees to isolation and ignore their basic desire to engage and connect with host communities. To love their life, 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 achieved when it was created by a group of young people. The non-profit organization understood that food, education, health and shelter are only one aspect of the needs of refugees and therefore decided to prioritize and meet their creative and psychological needs to improve their mental and emotional abilities. One of the main 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 build their confidence. in itself, their creativity and their hope,” she noted.

Regional and international platform

For his part, Ayman Gharaibeh, Regional Director of UNHCR’s MENA Office, pointed out that SIARA is a regional and international platform that highlights the exceptional humanitarian efforts undertaken by organizations around the world. It also provides a unique opportunity to shine a light on the lives of refugees and displaced people – their plight, the challenges they face, and their determination and hope for a better future.

He said, “Our partnership with His Highness and TBHF has passed the 10-year milestone, during which the contributions of His Highness and the Foundation have played an effective role in alleviating the plight of refugees and displaced people in many many regions.

He continued: “The world is witnessing an unprecedented increase in the number of people forced to flee their homes, which exceeded 100 million in May 2022. This is an important indicator of the worsening human tragedy. over the years. We are saddened when we remember that UNHCR was established in 1951 with a 3-year mandate – when the world thought the problems of displacement would soon end. However, the UNHCR still exists today and spares no effort to help refugees and displaced people. According to 2021 statistics, the MENA region hosts nearly 17 million refugees, representing 17% of the global figures. »

Ayman Gharaibeh added, “In light of the unprecedented increase in numbers, we must unite our efforts and devise durable solutions to ensure a decent life in a safe environment for refugees. Today we come together to honor 7Hills for their role in integrating refugees and empowering them through the creative arts. 7Hills’ efforts are not limited to developing the skills of children and young people in Jordan but also contribute to promoting the values ​​of harmony and coexistence between refugees and the host community. It is a unique way to break down the cultural, racial and societal barriers that prevent people from living in peace and harmony.

Invest in the community

During his opening speech, Mohammed Zakaria, Founder of 7Hills, thanked His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and his wife, His Highness, for honoring the nonprofit. He said: “Shared happiness is doubled – it’s the philosophy we follow in our work which began when a group of people with a passion for transforming urban spaces came together to create unique spaces that meet the personal needs and stimulate community involvement.”

He added: “We successfully built the 7Hills skatepark in Amman in 2014 in collaboration with local and international volunteers. The project started following a campaign of local and international donations. The children volunteered after school to help build the park and the mothers sent packed lunches for the while the imam and worshipers from the local mosque brought us sweets after Friday prayers to celebrate the completion of the project.

He continued, “Through the project, we – the Jordanians – have had the opportunity to meet and interact with the many nationalities that live in Jordan. After eight years of this project, our goal now is to take it forward through to an R&D program. Today, when we present our work, we are proud to say that we are creating safe urban spaces, arts and knowledge.”

The 7Hills founder shared a story that happened during a skateboarding class for refugee children living in the community. “When I asked about the nationality of a young boy named Omar, he told me he was Jordanian. This incident opened my eyes to the enormous impact and success of this project. If everyone in our project identifies as Jordanians and as belonging to our country, then that is the true mark of our success.

SIARA 2022 received 177 nominations from 39 countries around the world for the sixth edition of SIARA. The SIARA Awards Ceremony is organized in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah , and his wife, Sheikha Jawaher. bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, President of TBHF and UNHCR’s leading advocate for refugee children.

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

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Joel C. Hicks