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Tue 24 Jul 2018 03:40 PM

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Sheikh Zayed: The most powerful lessons

Tolerance and charity are hardwired into the UAE's DNA thanks to Sheikh Zayed

Sheikh Zayed: The most powerful lessons
Sheikh Zayed said the desert taught his people to be patient and find ways to develop the land

Today, we may look upon the traditions of progress and charity defined by the modern UAE and almost take them for granted.

One may be lulled into believing that a nation of profound means would naturally be tolerant and would give to those in need. Yet these fundamental values are not innate. Indeed, in the context of the world history, such values have often lingered in the minority.

That’s why I look at Sheikh Zayed and see a man – a person – who dug into his own beliefs, his own history and values and chose tolerance, charity and progress at a time when such choices required bold and visionary leadership. And he did so consistently, day in and day out, for many decades, until those beliefs were enshrined in the nation to which he gave birth.

Today, that impact is embodied in the vibrant progress of this great nation. It is in the bones of every skyscraper; in the arteries of fibre optic cables, satellites and all the infrastructure that drives progress. It is in the eyes of every child who looks ahead to the future and sees opportunity. And, of course, it is in the UAE’s tradition of giving to those most in need.

In my life, I’ve had the privilege of seeing the returns these values afford. I spent my youngest years in Jordan, learning the foundation of ethics that supported my early growth. Finishing high school in the US, I proudly shared the culture and heritage of our region when speaking at schools, in churches and big auditoriums in Wisconsin.

And this heritage we carry forward to today. Through our Ahl Al Azm initiative we have learned from those we have helped; we have seen how the choice to seek tolerance and progress can be cultivated around the world, even among those in the most difficult of circumstances.

Ahl Al Azm is a charity that enables people to enable themselves. We collaborated with volunteers in Ramadan to support people whose grit and determination are clear.

In Amman we met Hanaa, an architect who has a child suffering from cerebral palsy. She designed a device to carry her child from wheelchair to car, and also a playground accessible for the disabled. We supported her journey to China to build what she had envisioned, and Hanaa’s commitment to progress and charity has not only benefitted her child, but children across Amman.

In Beirut, we met Shereen who runs a store called Eid Wardrobes that provides new clothes for the poor during Eid. By simply providing her inventory – a relatively inexpensive contribution – we watched as her innate values afforded hundreds across the city the experience and honour of clean, new clothes.

In Jordan, we met Majid, a blind Pakistani boy living with his father. His passion for school was palpable and we got him a braille typing machine and iPhone hearing aid. Among all the people I have met, Majid embodied optimism and a determination to realise his own progress more than any other. While the tools we provided him were humble, I firmly believe the lessons he proves will be an inspiration for decades to come.

In the darkest corners, and in the most uncertain of circumstances, we have the choice to use our charity to support those most optimistic values of progress and tolerance. As the UAE itself proves every day, reality is a product of the values we live and those we enable through our actions.

Once again it proves that, around the world and in the most uncertain of circumstances, the values of Sheikh Zayed still carry the greatest weight today.

Tribute by Aiman Al Ziyoud, CEO of Charisma Group

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