It started with a Facebook post where she asked her friends if they have extra toys to donate.
Dubai - Focusing on children through her five-day visit, UAE-based ElHaimoud paid visits to a cancer hospital, orphanage, children's village and local camps where she distributed simple toys with her friend.
Two years ago, Mouna ElHaimoud made a dream come true when she visited Palestine and prayed in Al Aqsa Mosque of Occupied Jerusalem. But she didn't imagine that her visit will be the start of an initiative that has already touched lives of thousands of children across the world.
Focusing on children through her five-day visit, UAE-based ElHaimoud paid visits to a cancer hospital, orphanage, children's village and local camps where she distributed simple toys with her friend.
"I couldn't forget the children's faces, especially cancer patients who could barely move, yet got so bubbly and happy with a new toy. I knew that this should be something bigger," said ElHaimoud, a mediaperson of Moroccan origin.
Operating under the Red Crescent, her initiative 'Toys with Wings' helped distribute over 75,000 toys to children in need in 13 different countries, with 90 per cent of donated toys going to Syrian refugees in camps since its launch in 2015.
How to get involvedDubai resident can donate toys to Early Learning Center (ELC) branches in eight malls including Dubai Festival City, Mercato, Dubai Mall, Wafi and Al Barsha Mall.
Or stay updated and register as a volunteer to help in packing the toys through Toys With Wings social media channels and website www.toyswithwings.org
Its current ongoing campaign across GCC cities, in collaboration with Early Learning Centre, is aiming to gather 100,000 toys to be distributed to refugees. So far, the campaign has gathered 30,000 toys.
It started with a Facebook post where she asked her friends if they have extra toys to donate. In three weeks, she gathered 1,000 toys.
"At that time, I was travelling to Lebanon and had helped distribute toys to a Syrian refugee camp there. My second visit was to Gaza Camp in Jordan where I had already distributed 4,000 toys," said ElHaimoud.
Her friends and family members in other countries expressed interest in taking up the initiative, where they gathered and distributed toys for the needy. The initiative operates with the support of different charity organisations, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that helps in shipping toys and giving access to refugee camps.
Recently, 4,000 toys that flew over from Spain were distributed in Syrian camps in Zaatari and Marka in Jordan.
In the UAE, the Emirates Red Crescent helps in distributing toys to schools, orphans, and needy children. A number of public and private companies contribute in donating toys to needy children in other countries.
"It is nice to find that support without which I don't think the initiative would have expanded. One person can't change the world; you can come up with an idea that changes the world but you can't do it alone," said ElHaimoud.
She stressed that donors must give the toys they think their children would love to play with. "Before they donate, they must think whether their own child would love this toy. Many of the children who receive the toys are seeing it for the first time and we can't give them a ripped or broken toy," she said.
Through her initiative, ElHaimoud said she wanted to fight the perception that an individual cannot make much difference. "People usually think of themselves as individuals who will not make that much difference, which is completely untrue. Make a start, and through people's support, you will change the world," noted ElHaimoud.