“The future has arrived and it’s in your hands. You are a multilingual generation familiar with modern technologies. You are a progressive minded, forward-thinking generation that accepts people from different nationalities, ethnicities and religions. Our hope therefore lies in you. I urge everyone to free themselves of their ego and think of others. The best people are those, that bring most benefit to the rest of mankind”.
With these enlightening words, Dr. Kamel Mohanna, Founder and President of the Lebanese Amel Foundation International and a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, began his speech, during a session organized by The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) at Sajaya Young Ladies of Sharjah, titled. “The Inspiration Journey”.
Youth from Sajaya Young Ladies, Victoria International School of Sharjah, Sharjah Youth and University of Sharjah took part of the session with Dr. Mohanna, who was honored yesterday (Wednesday), by HH Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. He was presented the Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support (SIARA) 2019. The award was bestowed upon him by the Big Heart Foundation, in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Dr. Kamel Mohanna recalled his difficult childhood, living in a family of 11 members, in Southern Lebanon. He said, “I learnt during a time when literacy rates were very low and studied when times were oppressive”.
Mohanna remembered the horrors of war and the tragedies that struck his life during the war in Lebanon, which motivated him to help others. He shared that every time he helped others, he felt an innate satisfaction, making him feel that he was equally helped by others at some point.
He then talked about his experiences at Amel Foundation, which was established in 1979, that now has 24 branches across various countries in the world. It is dedicated to saving people and improving the quality of refugee lives. He then encouraged the youth to maintain positive thinking and believe in teamwork.
A tragedy that strengthened his humanitarian approach
Dr. Mohanna then shared his experience about losing his young son. He said, “I raised my son on the principles of humanitarian work and he was drawn to it at an early age. One day, while he and his colleagues were on a school trip, a fire broke out. His friends were stuck in a closed room and he went in to rescue them. But all of them including him, died of asphyxiation. But, he then said, this tragedy did not deter him from his work, instead it made him even more resolute and determined, to carry out his humanitarian work.
The participants present at the panel discussion also saw a short A/V produced by the Big Heart Foundation about the Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support (SIARA). The video showed the struggle of refugees who were forced to abandon their home countries. The video also narrated their determination to stay positive, despite all odds. It also urged people to change their perspective towards them and view them as assets rather than a burden for their host countries.
Finally, the session also presented a film about Amel Foundation’s efforts to assist and support refugees by providing them with job opportunities, and how they can use their skills and talents to be productive citizens and inspiring role models, not only for themselves and their communities, but also for their host countries.