Isa Award For Service To Humanity
BY ANAAM IKRAM
Secretary General of the Isa Award for Service to Humanity, Ali Abdulla Khalifa, spoke to Perle Magazine about how the award came about and the two commendable laureates so far.
The Isa Award was established to bring recognition to humanitarians around the world and shed light on their achievements.
His Majesty King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa established the award in 2009 to honour extraordinary people around the world who contribute selflessly to make the world a better place. Named after His Majesty’s father, the late King of Bahrain, Sheikh Isa Bin Salman Al Khalifa (may God rest his soul), the award place great importance on individuals who are dedicated to philanthropy. They also are a way of celebrating the late Amir’s commitment to humanitarian causes. Naming the award after Sheikh Isa Bin Salman Al Khalifa (may God rest his soul) was because he was hopeful for a more tolerant world, and also was loved and praised throughout the whole Kingdom of Bahrain, the Secretary General explained. “The late Amir had a personal relation with everyone in Bahrain” Ali Abdulla Khalifa said, adding that during his rule, the late Sheikh’s palace was open to everyone on Fridays and everyone was welcomed to meet him in the grand majlis.
“He built a new Bahrain and he brought it from a small country to where it is today. He lead Bahrain to being independent without any war and bloodshed”, said the Secretary General. Ali Abdulla Khalifa also spoke about how the late Amir was known throughout the kingdom for his kind-heartedness and generosity. “He was a very relatable man, and he was very close to his people”, he said.
Discussing the award, Ali Abdulla Khalifa explained there is a carefully selected Jury Committee. The committee comprises of seven experts representing each continent. Bodies such as the UN suggest potential members and after extensive research, candidates are selected to be part of the Jury Committee.
It is essential to make sure that members of the committee are experts in their fields, have a firm understanding of the Isa Award, and are knowledgeable about the philanthropists in their region. After the committee members are finalised, a formal announcement is made on the Isa Award website about the organisation looking for deserving candidates.
The Secretary General explained his job entails looking through the abundance of applications and ensuring the applicants have kept in line with the rules and regulations. There is then a finalised list of applicants that is given to the Jury Committee. Over the course of 3 meetings, the Jury Committee narrows down the list of applicants to 9 in the first shortlist, and then 3 in the second shortlist. The shortlist is delivered to the Board of Trustees who request a field research to verify all the provided information by the candidates. One member of the Jury Committee, a lawyer and Ali Abdulla Khalifa carry out the field research. During the field research, he said, it is essential to make sure of three main factors: that the organisation/person under research does not belong to any government party; that it is a non-profit organisation; and that the project covers a wide range of people and is not specific to any race, religion or nationality.
The research part, he said, can be very difficult as sometimes the site in question can be full of dangers. After the research is conducted on each of the candidates, a report is presented to the Board of Trustees who then decide which of the three is the most deserving laureate. The entire process takes around 18-20 months and thus the award is held every two years. The winning laureate is awarded with a gold medal, a certificate of merit and USD 1 million.
From its conception to date, there have been two sessions held thus far with both resulting in exceptional humanitarian work highlighted by two individuals. The first was Dr Jemilah Mahmood of Malaysia who founded MERCY Malaysia and received the award in 2013. The most recent award recipient was Dr. Achyuta Samanta of India, who set up the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences and The Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology, received the award in 2015.
Dr. Jemila Mahmood
A gynaecologist and obstetrician by profession, Dr. Jemilah Mahmood made a significant difference in the humanitarian world through her selfless contribution to disaster relief efforts around the globe. Dr. Mahmood set up MERCY Malaysia foundation in 1999 due to her desire to aid the war-torn people of Kosovo. Starting off with only a handful of volunteers including doctors and nurses, MERCY Malaysia had a small start but did not shy away from responding to calls for help from around the world.
In late 2002, MERCY Malaysia travelled to Afghanistan to establish the Women and Children’s Health Centre in Kandar. In 2003, Dr, Mahmood led her team to Darfur in Sudan despite the region being at the height of conflict. She set up a maternal ward in El Genina that is for the locals by the locals. Perhaps the biggest impact was made on Dr. Mahmood’s career after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, after which she dedicated her humanitarian efforts. The natural disaster that claimed 167,000 lives and rendered an estimated 570,000 homeless, was recorded as one of the biggest natural disasters to date. Within a week, Dr. Mahmood not only sent out a team of professionals but also later led a team herself to Banda Aceh, Indonesia. The incident also resulted in the death of around 1000 nurses and with the help of Syiah Kuala University, Dr. Mahmood convinced a private sector donor to help set up a nursing college. In 2013 it was reported that over 750 Acehenese have graduated with a degree in nursing and the establishment has evolved to include disaster management in its curriculum. Dr. Mahmood also played a significant part in setting up two private-sector school-orphanages and childcare centres in Aceh as well as a pharmacy college in collaboration with the Department of Health. Unfortunately in 2005, Indonesia saw another disaster in the form of an earthquake that affected the island of Nias and destroyed about 90% of the island’s healthcare facilities as well as the public infrastructure. Under the guidance of Dr. Mahmood, MERCY Malaysia supported the Indonesian government to help redevelop the island. Their combined efforts lead to two health centres on the island as well as three main blocks of the Gunung Sitoli Hospital, which has been named by the government as one of the best medical facilities in West Sumatra. 2005 also saw an earthquake in Pakistan that left devastation in its wake. MERCY Mayalsia worked in close association with the Pakistani government, the army, agencies, governmental and non-governmental organisations to better assess the situation and provide the required healthcare and aid in the affected areas.
The list of humanitarian aid carried out by Dr. Jemilah Mahdmood is endless and has earned her the deserving laureate not only the Isa Awards For Service To Humanity, but also the honourable title of Tan Sri by the government of Malaysia. Dr. Mahmood has also earned the award of “Her World Woman” in 2005 as well as being among the list of “Ten Most Powerful Women in Mayalsia” in 2005. In 2010 she was named the Reader’s Digests’ second most trusted person in Malaysia, among many of her other accolades.
Dr. Achyuta Samanta
A story of determination and vigour, Dr. Achyuta Samanta’s journey from “nowhere to now here” in the hopes for a better future is truly inspirational. Starting work from the mere age of 6, after his father passed away, Dr. Samanta took on the responsibility to help his widowed mother raise his seven siblings. Stricken with poverty, Dr. Samanta’s early years were riddled with difficulties and hardship but he continued to pursue his dreams of never letting poverty become a barrier between a person and education.
His own personal thirst for education led him to following the older boys from his village, as they would go to school. Eventually, the superiors at the school allowed him to join classes and thus he embarked on his educational journey. Dr. Samanta’s passion for education also led him to pursuing a higher education and a master’s degree. During his time as a student, Dr. Samanta would also tutor students privately, unbeknown that this would eventually become his calling. In 1992, with a savings of Rs 5000 (BHD 29) Dr. Samanta rented a two-room building to set up his first educational institution, The Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology. In a short time span, the institute became a beacon of hope for the neighbouring villages and its youth, as they were able to receive quality higher education. The persistence and hard work of Dr. Samanta lead Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology to becoming one of the youngest educational institutions to be awarded University status in 2004. Now considered as one of the top 15 universities in India, the institute has grown at a steadfast pace and offers a wide variety of courses ranging from Engineering, Liberal Arts and Sciences to Yoga and Spiritual Studies. Spread over 7.5 million sq ft, on 20 independent campuses with state-of-the-art facilities, the reputed institute hosts over 18,000 students from various parts of India and abroad for their graduate, post-graduate, doctoral and postdoctoral fellowship programmes.
With the aim to empower the young children in India who come from poverty, Dr. Samanta also set up The Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences in 1992. The school was set up to not only provide free education but also free lodging and boarding facilities to the tribal children. The school provides education from kindergarten to post-graduate level and serves over 25,000 children from impoverished areas in India. The school proved Dr. Samanta’s belief that by providing the right opportunities and facilities, these children can be just as successful as their mainstream counterparts. In addition to the exemplary educational results – 100% pass rate and no dropouts in the past 10 years – the school also focuses on nourishing the students’ physical health by encouraging sports.
Despite the tantamount success both the institution and school has garnered over the past 15 years, with numerous awards and global praise, Dr. Samanta never lost sight of who he is and what he stands for. The philanthropist did not take advantage of his rising success, but rather set up a humble life for himself in a rented house, wearing simple clothes and cooking his own food. By setting up the institution, Dr. Samanta’s winning entrepreneurial skills transformed a once-crime ridden community into a booming economic area with shopping complexes, restaurants, banks, industries and financial institutions that provide direct and indirect employment. His vision and determination is a true example of selfless humanitarianism.
The three-fold goal of the Isa Award for Service to Humanity has been able to bring forward and champion the commendable humanitarian efforts by individuals or institutions to better a community. The steps towards promoting positivity throughout the world is an inspirational feat and is applauded by the Bahraini government who has created an initiative to not only recognise the achievements but also to award and assist these endeavours.
For more information on the Isa Award for Service to Humanity:
(00973) 17 369 693
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