Tariq Al Gurg
Heads up the UAE's leading charity Dubai Cares. It is part of his daily job to help underprivileged children and to improve their quality of life
With years of experience in senior level corporate and consumer banking behind him and three young children, Tariq Al Gurg is certainly no stranger to negotiation or to leadership. But it is his job as Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Cares where these two skills have united to enable him to lead the philanthropic organisation towards helping some seven million children in developing world countries.
In partnership with major NGOs such as UNICEF and Save the Children, Dubai Cares is implementing comprehensive primary education programmes in 28 countries around the world. Whether it is providing children living in the Upazilas of Bangladesh with an education or helping to finance the rehabilitation of primary schools in disadvantaged areas in the tiny country of Djibouti, Dubai Cares’ sole goal is to provide children in developing countries with access to primary education. Al Gurg says his role is hugely rewarding. ‘Spearheading the efforts of such a leading philanthropic organisation gives me a tremendous sense of fulfillment and satisfaction on both personal and professional levels,’ he says. ‘I have three children and I can’t imagine a single day in which they would have to go to bed hungry, or when they would not have access to their basic rights of education, healthcare or safety.’
Appointed to his role in 2009, Al Gurg has travelled to many countries, personally visiting the children and taking stock of their situation. He says it can be a humbling experience. ‘I cannot describe the sad state of affairs that I have personally seen some children encounter,’ he says. ‘Children in the UAE are fortunate and blessed to have access to all their rights, comforts and freedoms. If you visit some of the developing countries, the living conditions and the lack of basic amenities there are shocking. Often children are made to work rather than sent to school; and those who do go to school, often do so under appalling conditions, unsafe school infrastructures, unhygienic surroundings due to the lack of latrines, clean drinking water and handwash facilities, and they have to travel long distances on foot.’
It gives me a tremendous sense of fulfillment and satisfaction on both personal and professional levels
Of the most challenging projects he has undertaken, Al Gurg says that the recent US$16m campaign in Mali, to implement water, sanitation and hygiene (what is referred to as ‘WASH’) in more than 950 schools, was at the top of his list. Working alongside international NGOs, the program directly supported Malian Government’s policy of school health but it was finding common ground that was the biggest obstacle.
‘It took an incredible level of patience and forward-thinking negotiation for Dubai Cares to develop a strategic approach that was taken on board by all partners in Mali,’ explains Al Gurg. Now, thanks to his perseverance, the Dubai Cares program along with the additional funding is reaching a total of 1,400 schools and benefitting one in five children in Mali.
Although his role is clearly pivotal in most of the impactful projects, Al Gurg is keen to express that all the good work stems from the key first step taken by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Prime Minister and Vice President of the United Arab Emirates and leader of Dubai and that he is just part of the bigger picture. Humble and true to his roots, this Emirati leader says that his country is very special due to its multicultural inhabitants and that everyone contributes to it being the way it is today.
As for the future, Al Gurg says Dubai Cares will continue with its community engagement platform through regular initiatives in the UAE and will also step up various fundraising efforts to back up their ongoing programming in developing countries.
‘As far as our international interventions are concerned, we are committed to achieving a lasting impact through our sustainable educational platforms,’ Al Gurg concludes. ‘Dubai Cares will continue to maintain its focus on increasing primary education enrollment and retention and will ensure students’ performances by enabling early learning, literacy and numeracy, as well as providing teachers with new knowledge and teaching methods.’