African NGO founded by refugee poet wins Sharjah's Dh500,000 advocacy award
Ruler of Sharjah assured that the emirate will continue supporting refugees around the world.
A non-profit organisation that has turned a refugee camp into a 'living society' that sings, dances and stands together for peace has won the Dh500,000 grand prize at the fourth Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support (Siara).
Founded by a refugee poet, artist and musician, Trésor Nzengu Mpauni, the Tumaini Letu organisation brings hope and joy to refugees at the Dzaleka camp in Malawi, Africa, through its Tumaini Festival, an art and culture event that attracts over 50,000 visitors annually and raises $150,000 per year.
"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," Nzengu said as he delivered an emotional acceptance speech at the virtual award ceremony held on Wednesday.
Beyond the revenues, the festival brings joy and hope to the refugees and the wider Malawian community. "It allows people to reduce their trauma and to temporarily forget about the persecution that forces people to flee their countries and to become refugees."
"This award is a motivation not only to me and my team at Tumin Letu, but to the whole refugee community in Malawi, especially to young people who have big dreams and so much potential..."- TheBigHeartUAE (@TheBigHeartUAE) August 19, 2020
Trésor Nzengu Mpauni, Founder and CEO of Tumaini Letu on winning #SIARA20 pic.twitter.com/4GegN0Dswe
As The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) awarded the Siara prize to Tumaini Letu, Sharjah vowed to continue supporting such initiatives that create ripples of hope among refugees and make a difference in the lives of vulnerable populations around the world.
His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, said: "We will continue our role in supporting and assisting refugees and the needy wherever we reach, or through the reach of our partners."
"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," Sheikh Sultan said as he addressed the award ceremony which was broadcast live on TBHF's social media platforms.
Sharjah, he said, is the emirate that "chose to stand by the victims of conflicts, wars, disasters, poverty, and the weak whose rights are violated". And initiatives like TBHF's Siara helps alleviate the "feelings of injustice, persecution and hatred" in different pockets of the world.
The Sharjah Ruler also commended the noble efforts of his wife, 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."
Transforming 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.
"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," she said.
Tumaini Letu - a Swahili phrase that means "Our Hope" - is determined to turn such a situation around. Al Hammadi congratulated the organisation for "transforming refugee camps into living societies where its inhabitants can exercise their rights to live".
'Motivation for the community'
Over the past six years, the Tumaini Festival 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.
"Local, Malawian national and international artists are invited to celebrate peace among a group of people who have been forced to flee. It is a fact that Tumaini Festival opens doors to many and draws large crowds of people who would otherwise never go to a refugee camp," the organisation said.
For Tumaini Letu's founder, the Siara award is a motivation for the entire refugee community in Malawi.
"This award is a seed of growth that will strengthen our team and inspire us to implement more innovative programmes to transform refugee lives and bring benefits to our host country," he said as he thanked the Ruler of Sharjah, his wife Sheikha Jawaher and TBHF.
In his emotional acceptance speech, he 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, one 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.
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