Late last year, Friday announced the Making A Difference Awards to honour the most deserving among the thousands who, through some initiative large or small, are helping make the world a little better.

Through our hugely popular section, Making A Difference, we have been celebrating people, groups and organisations who have made a difference to the lives of millions. But we wanted to take it a step further and honour those whose kind deeds and philanthropy have transformed lives.

To give our readers a chance to be involved in the selection process, we invited them to nominate people, organisations and charities who they felt deserved to be commended for their work.

Not surprisingly, the flood of nominations we received were as diverse as they were worthy, and spanned the globe. Our job 
was even more difficult – picking the finalists from among this overwhelming list across seven categories. Over the course of three months, we painstakingly reviewed each nomination before preparing a shortlist for each category.

An eminent panel of judges will choose one individual/charity/organisation as the winner of each section, who will be given the Friday Making a Difference Award at a glittering gala in Dubai.

Clockwise from top left: The Children’s Garden, Dubai College and The Indian High School undertake numerous programmes of support.

Star School

Taaleem’s The Children’s Garden

The Children’s Garden Green Community (TCGGC) is a multilingual preschool for children ages two to six. It promotes learning and teaching through the creative arts and languages, and has been nominated for special effort in creating awareness about Alzheimer’s disease, and supporting the Alzheimer’s charity group,

‘We’ve been involved with the Forget Me Not Foundation, supporting Alzheimer’s for several years,’ says Ana-Paula de Castro, head of the school.

‘Every year, we hold an art exhibition that we call the Caravan of Colours. This is a celebration of the children’s creativity and self-expression throughout the year. Artwork from every child in the school is displayed for about a month. A silent auction is held and parents place secret bids for any of the items they wish to purchase.

‘At the end of the show, the highest bidder wins and receives the chosen artwork. Our current show for 2016 runs until the beginning of June.’ The proceeds go to the charity, besides inculcating in the children a mentality of helping others.

Dubai College

The school has a dedicated charity committee that takes its work very seriously. On March 27 they organised a music concert on school grounds that raised Dh16,407 for the Children of the Mountain, which builds schools in quake-hit Nepal, and Harmony House, a charity school near New Delhi, India.

The students of Dubai College are actively involved in raising funds for various causes. They recently collected and prepared care packages with knick-knacks for labourers, and went to their accommodations to present them. Such campaigns have been held through Adopt-a-Camp as well, and charities supported range from those providing succour to the homeless in Ethiopia to schools and institutions in Nepal.

The Indian High School, Dubai

‘Every year we try and focus on a different group or organisation to help,’ says Ashok Kumar, CEO. ‘We have regularly partnered with Dubai Cares, Rashid Paediatric Centre and Al Noor and our long-term plans are to keep giving back to society and the underprivileged through different programmes and initiatives.’ The school’s students participated in the Back to School initiative by KHDA where children contributed 1,001 stationery boxes to underprivileged kids as part of the Zayed Humanitarian Work Day programme.

An Indian High School student delegation was also actively involved in constructing a new building for Takshila School in Rudraprayag, India. The objective was to construct a permanent building to replace the huts that served as classrooms after the school lost its building in the 2013 floods.

‘We also have a regular programme called Cinema for a Cause,’ says Ashok Kumar. ‘It is run across kindergarten to Grade 12, where students are shown an age-appropriate movie in the school auditorium at the minimal cost of Dh5. They are provided juice and popcorn as they drop their money in ‘Honest Boxes’ kept outside the auditorium – the aim being to inculcate the quality of honesty even when no one is watching.’ The money collected is used for the education of seven tribal girls adopted in a village in Jharkhand, India. ‘This was a cause that our students felt very strongly about and wanted to contribute to,’ he says.

Clockwise from left: A rebuilt school by KEF Holdings; orphans cared for by Kinderhut (also below left); Dr Sunitha Krishnan of Prajwala.

International Award


Co-founded by Dr Sunitha Krishnan, a social activist, Prajwala is an NGO that rescues, rehabilitates and reintegrates sex-trafficked victims back into society. She had always been precocious – at eight, she started teaching dance to special needs children; by the age of 12, she was running a school for underprivileged kids in a slum in Bengaluru. When she was 15, she was abused severely while working on a literacy campaign – an incident that fuels the work she does today.


Anupama Rathore believes that for any country to develop, its people must be well educated. To that end, she is working towards providing quality education to India’s underprivileged. Even while working with a German company in Dubai, she always felt the urge to move back to India and revolutionise the education system.

So, in 2014, she left her budding career midway and joined the Teach for India fellowship programme, where she worked with 37 students from a low-income community in New Delhi.

Recently, she started a small community learning centre where she is teaching and facilitating skill growth through project learning. Called Picknuts, it focuses on developing the critical thinking, logical and literacy skills of 55 children in the locality. She also teaches 150 kids at two other under-resourced schools.

Anupama aims to impact 500 under-resourced kids through her learning centre, through the involvement of other teachers and volunteers in the next three years.


Initially formed as an informal group of doctors based in Dubai to help tsunami victims in December 2004, following an earthquake that struck Banda Aceh, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, Kinderhut was launched formally in 2005. By the end of the year, the group had built the first Kinderhut Village in Banda Aceh. The 14-house property was to house orphans and destitute women, and a unique pattern was put in place whereby women would be paired with some children to mimic a family.

‘The village is today home to 132 children and 47 women,’ says Dr Rajini Abdul Gafoor, who, along with her husband, is one of the founding members. Membership has fallen to just four, but their work in Banda Aceh goes uninterrupted. Coordinating volunteer visits and forging volunteer partnership with the Knowledge and Human Development Authority in Dubai are part of this.

Faizal and Shabana Foundation

Established in 2007 in India as a charitable arm of KEF Holdings by Sharjah-based industrialist Faizal E Kottikollon and his wife Shabana Faizal, the foundation embodies the very essence of corporate social responsibility, not merely as a component 
of business to report to the world but also as a societal responsibility to uplift the underprivileged.

KEF Holdings believes in moving beyond the commercial objectives of a business and using technology for the betterment of society. Besides education, the foundation works towards the safety, health and overall welfare of women, children and the elderly through their various initiatives and numerous charities across India and the UAE.

KEF Holdings specialises in off-site construction technology, and is also to leading the transformation of India’s dilapidated 1.2 million government schools into updated institutions with proper educational technologies and tools, bringing much needed relief and hope to nearly 140 million students.

The core philosophy of both Children of the Mountain and The ZB Foundation is to help babies and children in the poorest regions of the subcontinent.

Inspirational Charity

Mawaheb from Beautiful People

Mawaheb from Beautiful People is an art studio for those 16 years and above with special needs. Since 2009, it has being doing incredible work grooming people with special needs to become artists in their own right. They also develop life skills, self-confidence and self-esteem.

‘Through art, we bring the process of self-expression to individuals of all abilities, to help them realise their full potential and prevail over life’s challenges,’ said Wemmy de Maaker, Founder and Managing Director.

‘Our mission is to break down the boundaries and stigmas associated with people with special needs by integrating them into mainstream society and giving them a voice to demonstrate their own unique creativity.’

Children of the Mountain

A UK-registered charity that aims to support the poorest children in rural Nepal, Children of the Mountain provides them with as many opportunities as possible through education and personal development.

The relatively small group also campaigns against gender and caste bias and promotes education as a practical alternative to rampant child labour. It also provides essential school supplies, uniforms and books, and trains teachers to create a child-centric creative learning environment.

The ZB Foundation

The Zahra Beau Foundation was formed by Danielle and Akbar Naqvi, who turned the death of their 4-month-old daughter Zahra – she was adopted from Pakistan and had a rare metabolic disease – into a project of hope. It’s the first charity to enable the baby heel prick test that could have saved Zahra. Most hospitals in rural Pakistan do not have access to such tests. The foundation holds the key to saving innumerable lives that may be lost because of the lack of knowledge about such a simple test.