“We will continue our role in supporting and assisting refugees and the needy wherever we reach, or through the reach of our partners,” said HH Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, during a virtual event held to honour the winner of the fourth annual edition of the Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support (SIARA 2020).
Tumaini Letu, a non-profit organization based at the Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi, Africa, and founded by refugee poet and artist Trésor Nzengu Mpauni was announced as the winner of the AED 500,000 award at the 4th edition of SIARA. The organization’s flagship program, the annual Tumaini Festival, is an art and culture event that has attracted 99,000 attendees and united 304 groups of artists from 18 different countries over the past six years while also generating around $150,000 per year.
At the virtual address broadcast live on TBHF’s social media platforms His Highness said: “Even as wars and violence continue to displace more people every day, our duty is to decrease the impact of wars through actions that benefit innocent victims.”
The Ruler of Sharjah said initiatives such as SIARA help in “minimizing the effects of wars, especially feelings of injustice, persecution and hatred.”
Pledging his commitment to continue to support and assist refugees, HH Sheikh Dr. Sultan Al Qasimi thanked TBHF for improving the lives of millions of displaced persons worldwide. The Sharjah Ruler also commended the noble efforts of his wife, HH Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of TBHF and UNHCR Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children, “for leaving a sustainable impact wherever she visited, and planting the seeds of hope, awareness and love.”
In his message, Sheikh Dr. Sultan described Sharjah as the emirate that “chose to stand by the victims of conflicts, wars, disasters, poverty, and the weak whose rights are violated.”
Filippo Grandi: SIARA is a pioneering initiative
Established in 2017, the Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support (SIARA) honours humanitarian outfits across Asia, the Middle East and Africa and draws global attention to their outstanding efforts and initiatives in improving lives of refugee communities.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, spoke at the ceremony, and asserted SIARA is a “pioneering initiative that draws global attention to the plight of
80 million people uprooted around the world and honours those who are helping transform the response to the refugee crisis.”
Lauding the efforts of HH Sheikha Jawaher in driving humanitarian efforts in support of those displaced and thanking TBHF for providing essential lifesaving support to more than 1 million people including Iraqi, Rohingya, South Sudanese and Syrian refugees, Grandi emphasized that conflict and displacement continue to peril the precarious lives of refugees even during the outbreak of a global health crisis.
“As the world works together to respond to the pandemic, we can draw inspiration from refugees for their unshaken resilience, their desire to contribute and their resolve to improve their own and the lives of others,” said Grandi, as he congratulated Tumaini Letu, the winner of the 2020 edition of SIARA.
He said: “Tumaini Letu is an organization founded by a refugee that has demonstrated remarkable commitment and creativity in pursuing cultural development, refugee empowerment and devotion to vulnerable populations in Malawi.”
Al Hammadi: SIARA winner Tumaini Letu has transformed refugee camps into living societies
Speaking at the event, Mariam Al Hammadi, Director of TBHF, drew attention to the plight of refugees worldwide who, along with their basic human rights, have lost their sense of safety and security and have had to abandon all hopes of joy and peace.
She said: “There is an entire generation of refugee and displaced children who have not seen anything but harsh and dire conditions throughout their young lives. We must ask ourselves what future awaits them if there are no institutions keen to compensate them psychologically, morally and emotionally.”
Reaffirming the role and goals of SIARA in recognizing exceptional role models for entities and individuals engaged in humanitarian work, Mariam Al Hammadi congratulated the efforts of Tumaini Letu “in transforming refugee camps into living societies where its inhabitants can exercise their rights to live and regain what has been lost on intellectual and emotional levels in the Republic of Malawi.”
She highlighted the ‘The Tumaini Festival’, an annual event hosted by Tumaini Letu that attracts more than 50,000 visitors annually and transforms the Dzaleka refugee camp into a creative platform that helps promote the psychosocial wellbeing of its displaced populations through opportunities for creative expression and entertainment.
Nzengu: The SIARA award is a motivation for the entire refugee community in Malawi
Delivering an emotional acceptance speech, Trésor Nzengu Mpauni said: “I am receiving this award at a time when humanity and solidarity are needed more than ever before; a time when we are all shaken by a pandemic and still uncertain of what the future will look like.”
“At this very moment, 1 per cent of the global population is forcibly displaced due to war and persecution, living in dangerous conditions, and exposed to a possible death. I am accepting this award on their behalf because I am one of them,” said Nzengu, who is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The organization was recognized for its efforts in promoting peaceful coexistence, mutual understanding and intercultural harmony between refugees and the host communities via various modes of artistic expression such as art workshops and festivals.
“By opening the doors of Dzaleka Refugee Camp to the world, Tumaini Festival creates jobs and economic opportunities for the refugee community to raise money through various businesses. It creates a market space for craft people to sell their products and gives families the opportunity to make income by hosting guests in their homes,” he said.
The festival has also helped amplify the voices of its communities by media outreach to more than 50 million people worldwide, he added.
Thanking the Ruler of Sharjah, his wife HH Sheikha Jawaher and TBHF for its remarkable efforts in refugee advocacy, Trésor Nzengu continued: “The SIARA award is a motivation for the entire refugee community in Malawi, especially to young people who have big dreams and so much potential. This award is a seed of growth that will strengthen our team and inspire us to implement more innovative programs to transform refugee lives and bring benefits to our host country.”
Calling on all viewers at the virtual awards event to embark on a journey of driving transformative change in the lives of refugees and building peace between communities, he said: “We have seen it work in Malawi and we are confident that it can work everywhere in the world. Change is possible only if we all take action.”
Organized by The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), a Sharjah-based global humanitarian charity, in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the 2020 edition of the awards ceremony was held virtually on World Humanitarian Day in line with the ongoing global preventative and safety measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus disease, COVID-19.
Hassan Yacoub, Secretary General of the Sharjah Media Council, hosted the online awards ceremony that was delivered in an engrossing format of live speeches, animation and virtual story telling. The full ceremony can be viewed on the following link: https://youtu.be/v9wtvz544Vg
In its fourth edition, SIARA 2020 received 242 nominations from 52 countries across Asia, Middle East and Africa.