How UAE’s Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation changes lives of Arab youth

Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi and Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair during the 'fireside chat' in Dubai on Thursday

Dubai: UAE’s Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation has changed the lives of tens of thousands of Arab youth by providing them higher education and advancing their career prospects.

This was revealed on Thursday as the Foundation published its Annual Impact Report for 2022 which showed it had positively impacted the lives of 26,000 youth, marking a 40 per cent surge from the previous year.

One of the largest philanthropic institutions in the region, the foundation unveiled the report and emphasised the importance of strategic investment in creating meaningful impact during a fireside chat between Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, president of American University of Sharjah (AUS) and founder and chairperson of Kalimat Foundation, and Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, chairman of the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation.

During the freewheeling conversation between two philanthropists at Capital Club Dubai, the audience heard anecdotes about how the Foundation had walked the extra mile to uplift the lives of Arab youth facing conflicts and displacement.


Lasting impact

Sheikha Bodour said: ‘Philanthropy is about so much more than funding – it’s about bringing together knowledge with financial resources and applying them to areas with proven needs. For the greatest, lasting impact, philanthropy should be data-driven, and not done in isolation. When donors combine their efforts, they can deliver meaningful change on some of the biggest challenges of our time, such as climate change and sustainability. My overriding message is ‘give with your head, not your heart’, because although a donor might feel an affinity with a certain issue, their money may well be put to far greater use in another domain altogether.’


Annual report

While recollecting a couple of such incidents, Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair revealed that a girl from Gaza who received a scholarship from the Foundation had to be taken out of the conflict zone with great difficulty.

Al Ghurair also recollected supporting a Syrian refugee boy. The 18-year-old boy had moved to Turkey and came here to work and support his father. “He applied [for] our programme and he got the scholarship. We put him at AUS. He graduated with honours…This guy would not have got access to a decent university without us…”

The Foundation’s initiatives and programmes, such as TechUp, Siraj, Project Hama, and Work Integrated Learning, aim to empower Emirati and Arab youth through high-quality education and skill-enhancing opportunities.

Dr Sonia Ben Jaafar, CEO of Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation unveiled the annual report in the presence of the eminent speakers and Sheikh Dr Majid Al Qassimi, founding Partner of Soma Mater. Thus far, she said, the Foundation’s impact has reached an impressive 76,000 Emirati and Arab youth throughout the region.


Give with your head

The shared insights and personal experiences that were revealed during the fireside chat between Sheikha Bodour and Al Ghurair underscored the need for deeper engagement from the Next Generation of philanthropists to continue making a tangible difference in their respective communities. They also underlined the importance of strategic investment as a catalyst for creating meaningful impact.

Al Ghurair added: “I am honoured to have shared the stage with Sheikha Bodour, reflecting on the potential of strategic philanthropy and discussing the possibilities of a UAE-inspired philanthropy framework that may be replicated beyond our borders.”

Underscoring the importance of participation of the business community, Mohamed Karmoui, general manager, Capital Club Dubai, stated, “As corporate citizens, businesses possess unique resources and expertise that can drive transformative change. Today’s event has provided not only great encouragement but also wider understanding on the core values and operational strategies needed for scalable impact.”


Foundation’s programmes


Launched in partnership with Udacity, to train youth in diverse levels of in-demand digital skills, the programme witnessed more than 7,300 Arab youth enrolled in the programme, which included 84% Emiratis, 68% females, and 75% youth aged between 18 and 28.


In collaboration with CNN Arabic, Siraj aims to provide 300 Emirati and Arab youth with critical skills, strategic and creative thinking, and public speaking, to enhance their competitiveness and prepare them for the job market. 85 Emirati youth have now completed the program of which 58% are females.


Project Hama

Launched in August under the leadership of the UAE Prime Minister’s Office, Project Hama focused on enhancing the career-readiness of Emirati female military recruits, by equipping them with professional and transferable skills necessary for employment in a variety of fields, including design, project management, and entrepreneurship. The programme effectively conducted five workshops and trained more than 200 military recruits.

Work Integrated Learning – Developed in collaboration with the University of Waterloo in Canada, this programme focuses on capacity building, training, and resourcing, allowing students to develop skills for increased chances of employment.

Youth Advisory Council

The Foundation also established the Al Ghurair Foundation Youth Advisory Council comprising of 14 Arab youth from diverse backgrounds last year. These impressive young leaders have been advising the Foundation, facilitating effective communication with stakeholders, supporting research projects, and representing the Foundation at national, regional, and international events.

Online programme

With online learning continuing to be the preferred option for students, Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation’s initiative, University Consortium for Quality Online Learning, launched in 2020 in collaboration with the UAE’s Ministry of Education and nine leading universities in the UAE, to design and develop high-quality and accredited online programs, has operated in full swing last year.

In 2022 alone, the Foundation, with the help of the initiative, trained more than 100 educators and supported the universities to launch innovative courses that opened new learning opportunities for over 8,000 students. The Foundation also invested and dedicated more than 1,300 hours of professional development design sprints and workshops for Arab youth keen to upskill.