Dubai expat volunteers for over 50,000 hours to empower the needy

Aishwarya Joshi with beneficiaries of her programme. — Supplied photo
Aishwarya Joshi with beneficiaries of her programme. — Supplied photo

Dubai - Aishwarya Joshi has mobilised aid worth more than Dh950,000 per year in the UAE


Suneeti Ahuja Kohli

Published: Sun 22 Aug 2021, 8:03 PM

Last updated: Mon 23 Aug 2021, 7:09 AM

From organising counselling sessions in Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon to putting together literacy programmes for UAE workers, Aishwarya Joshi has been devoting her time and energy to be a ‘lighthouse’ for people looking for direction in life.

Her goal, Joshi said, is not only to bring relief to those in need — but also to empower them to help themselves and get back on their feet.

She has clocked up more than 50,000 hours of volunteering and mobilised aid worth more than Dh950,000 per year in the UAE. Her contributions in terms of facilitating relief for foreign countries now runs in millions.

Joshi, founder of the Lighthouse Cohort, has always believed every individual can make a difference through the work they do.

“We all know how to do charity but it is time to really go deeper and fix the problems at source. There is no dearth of non-profits or resources. People are willing to help but we are still unable to see the kind of impact resources can make. There is a need for somebody in between to speak the language of both the donors and the receivers, and that’s where we are working to achieve collective vision,” said Joshi.

The Lighthouse Cohort is a social enterprise that provides strategy and partnership advice and creates programmes and projects for international organisations and corporates. It also provides pro bono services to a lot of local and international organisations.

Joshi is an architect who had moved to Dubai in 2005. Working closely with workers, she identified the common problems they faced and started upskilling them. In parallel, she started working with children as well.

After seeing the impact, she launched her own company, The Lighthouse Cohort, in 2014, which has since been an instrument of change and hope.

In 2015, Joshi shifted her focus on refugees. Her dedication, ability to empathise with people, identify problems and train and upskill them have been well recognised by various domestic and international organisations.

From 2016-18, Joshi worked in Jordan and Lebanon with refugees and also some tribal communities who have taken refuge in those countries. She was later asked to work with kids in Iraq, where she now focuses on the area with large Kurdish population.

“I have run two fundraising programmes for the Iraqi population and helped put in place a process that now sustains itself. Millions worth of aid goes to the region every year from the UAE and it is making a huge difference,” said Joshi.

Her enduring and resilient spirit has given her a moniker ‘Architect of Humanity’, and she is truly living up to this image.

Orphaned at a young age, Joshi is constantly striving to fix problems. “I think that kind of culture is so required because when Covid or some other calamity happens, the resilience of people keeps societies alive. If you empower people, strengthen their roots, you will not need humanitarian work in certain areas. This work goes a long way.”

Why Joshi’s work matters

Development Initiatives’ 2020 Global Humanitarian Assistance report reveals that in 2019, over one billion people were living in countries affected by long-term humanitarian crises, such as conflict, displacement and natural disasters. In the same period, international UN appeals hit a record high but international humanitarian funding dropped by $1.6 billion.

The pandemic compounded many of these existing humanitarian challenges. And despite the growing humanitarian needs, the global economy is under significant strain and donor governments are facing increasing domestic costs. Global aid is projected to decline further and faster, requiring countries and global organisations to find solutions to various chronic problems.

“In various developing countries, people are slowly and steadily losing their confidence that they can do anything to make the change themselves because they are so dependent on aid and foreign help. I am trying to make a difference through my healing, upskilling and literacy programmes. I’m trying to bring that awareness and remind people that they can take care of themselves. Every human being can, it’s just a matter of knowing and doing something to achieve those goals. We need to be the change we seek,” said Joshi.

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