Brava, Sheryl Mairza, brava for the good work you are doing that makes so much difference in so many lives. May God bless the work of your hands! From the Kuwait Times:
Spreading cheer in the land
Operation Hope, an NGO established by Sheryll Mairza, is touching people’s lives throughout the world. A grassroots humanitarian outreach that is motivated by compassion to alleviate suffering in Kuwait, Operation Hope serves those in the greatest of need through the support of the local and international community. Since 2005, more than 50,000 bags of winter clothing have been distributed to impoverished workers in Kuwait.
Operation Hope is now slowly reaching out to people around the world through organizations and individuals. After the recent typhoon in the Philippines, Operation Hope contributed relief goods for the affected areas.
“For the Philippines, we contributed some of our collected goods when we were approached by organizations and individuals to help them in their relief efforts. We have a lot of gently used clothes ready to be sold, but we gave it to third party organizations that shipped it to typhoon victims in Philippines,” Mairza said.
Another instance where Operation Hope reached out to people of other countries was through a proxy. Mairza said a Gambian woman who wanted to stock her library with books had her wish fulfilled. “We were approached by a woman from Gambia who had started a drive to fill her local library with books so she could help boost the literacy rate of adults there. We have an abundance of books here, so we helped her and shipped the books to Gambia,” she said.
According to Mairza, Operation Hope has a very limited budget and people to do international relief efforts, but through third party organizations, they can reach people on the other sides of the world. “We cooperate with people in areas where need arises. If people there want to start volunteering work similar to Operation Hope, they can do so. I allow the use of Operation Hope’s plans,” she mentioned. “I don’t personally want to go to different places to set up Operation Hope. If volunteers like to spread it in other countries and set up their own NGOs, they can take my blueprint and apply it there. They can be founders of Operation Hope for example in Malaysia, Indonesia or Philippines. I will be happy to share the formula I used to set up this NGO,” she said.
Mairza admitted Operation Hope was affected by the global financial crisis of 2008, which saw a great decline of support from donors. “When it became evident that support was dwindling, we came up with more creative ways to keep the funds flowing. We started Christmas bazaars and sold used clothes and kitchenware to raised funds. With the support of locals and expats, we opened a boutique inside a compound of my in-laws’ house to sell gently used household items.
The need is great and extended beyond winter, so we organized more frequent bazaars. A vast place in my in-laws’ property in Rumaithiya was utilized to display the products. We received so many donations – from toys to clothes to household things – that we didn’t know where to put them; even the embassy shelters had no place to store all of it, so I thought of selling these items,” Mairza said. “With the help of the British Society of Kuwait, we renovated the facility and opened it on January 12, 2012. We are generating income from it and we distribute it in the form of tickets for the repatriation of runaway maids. We also regularly send toiletries and sanitary products for women in the shelters of the Ethiopia, Nepal, Philippines and Sri Lanka embassies,” she explained.
A few months ago, according to Mairza, an Ethiopian woman fell from the third floor of her employer’s house, and her leg was amputated. “Operation Hope provided her with a prosthetic leg, and we helped her rehabilitation,” she noted.
Asked on how he she was able to monitor and control the flow of donations to Operation Hope, she said, “We don’t keep a substantial amount of money in the bank. Whatever we get we give it right away to the needy. We need donations to flow regularly to carry out the work at Operation Hope. We are also lucky to have the support of a woman from the Behbehani family, who has a heart of gold. She is always ready to contribute; always ready to support us financially and emotionally and with words of encouragement. She is a shining star, and one of the Kuwaitis who have been contributing to our cause. This woman calls us and asks what else she can contribute. She is very passionate about helping and serving others
The need for a charity work is great according to Mairza. Apart from individuals and organizations, she is also thankful for the support given to her by educational institutions in Kuwait. “I get phenomenal support from schools. They are very helpful and volunteer time and effort to collect things,” she added.
Mairza dreams a time will come when Operation Hope is no longer needed. “I know this dream is very idealistic, that the gap between the haves and have-nots will narrow,” she said. Realistically, her vision is to continue moving forward to raise the younger generation to be aware of realities and look beyond their personal goals and ambitions.
“I want them to see the persons to their left and right, because at the end of the day, we are brothers and sisters. We come from different places, but we are all brothers and sisters. We need to continue to strive to support and help one another,” she mentioned.
In May 2013, she was presented with $10,000, an award she received for inspiring women of the GCC, sponsored by Philadelphia cheese. “It was a very amazing award which I used to add to our winter program. It was a huge blessing for us,” she concluded.
By Ben Garcia
We had no idea when we left home this morning that when we got to the school, all the parking spaces would be full and it would be almost impossible to find a seat in the auditorium. It was only 8:45 in the morning, and it was only the Pre-K 3’s who would be performing.
We had forgotten – Pensacola is like the Middle East. Family first, and time off for a Christmas Pageant – well, of course!
Pensacola is not like Seattle, or any of the larger cities. While spread out, it is only around 50,000 people, and the worst traffic is never that bad, not if you’ve driven in Amman, or Seattle, or Qatar, or Kuwait. You may not have to stop while the shepherd and his sheep cross the road, but you can get to downtown Pensacola from almost any part of the city in under 15 minutes.
The parking spaces were GONE. The auditorium was PACKED. Friends were greeting friends, all dressed in the reds and greens of Christmas time.
And then the children marched in, and it was barely controlled bedlam as these young stars spotted parents and grandparents and yelled “Grandpa! Here I am!” and angels and sheep and shepherds and wise men all were carefully lined up to sing their songs and tell us the Christmas Story as only 3-years-old can. Oh, it was not to be missed!
We love it that Pensacola is not a city with a lot of rushing about; people have time to go see their children in the school Christmas pageant, that the teachers take the time to herd these cats so that they can sing the songs, do the motions, and probably, if asked, give a rough outline of what happened on that first Christmas.
It’s all a matter of priorities. Pensacola, like our homes in the Middle East, places a high value on family activities, family time, and a balance of work and family where family time has a cherished place.
The cool thing about living in Qatar is that they tell you when the festival is about to happen, and encourage you to go. The Dhows – all the different kinds – are beautiful and graceful, and my happiest memories in Qatar include a night ride along the coastline with its twinkling lights on a blistering hot evening, but the sea breeze and the movement of the boat makes it pleasant.
Traditional Dhow Festival opens
Wednesday, 20 November 2013
The Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage H E Dr Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al Kuwari checking a pearl at the opening of the festival yesterday and (below) some of the boats docked at the Katara Beach. Shaival Dalal
BY RAYNALD C RIVERA
DOHA: A total of 105 Arabian dhows of different types are moored at the Katara Beach for the third edition of Katara’s annual Traditional Dhow Festival which opened yesterday.
Compared with the previous editions, this year’s festival provides visitors with an idea about types of dhows still used in the region.
“Last year we had 107 boats, 70 to 80 percent of which were of the same type — sambuk. This year we have 105 boats of 22 types, mostly jalboot, baggarah, bateel and shoi,” Katara General Manager, Dr Khalid bin Ibrahim Al Sulaiti, told the media after the opening.
While most dhows came from the Gulf; some are from Iran, Zanzibar and India, he said.
“We are looking forward to having some boats from China next year,” he said, adding the Chinese ambassador, who was present at the opening, was forging relations with Katara to participate in the festival next year.
New at this year’s festival is the Fath Al Khair’s journey to the six GCC states. The dhow, currently part of Qatar Museums Authority’s collection, would leave Katara shores on Friday and return on December 18.
Al Sulaiti said the 27-day voyage is “just like what our forefathers did in the past when they left Qatar for a couple of months to dive for pearls. Through this, we would like to refresh the minds of our new generation with the culture and heritage of their forefathers.”
Inaugurated by the Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage H E Dr Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al Kuwari, the five-day festival features heritage lectures, performances by regional bands, boat-making demonstrations, dhow cruises, light and fireworks shows, children’s activities and exhibits from museums across the Gulf.
There will also be maritime competitions, including sailing, rowing and pearl-diving in which the public is welcome to take part. Winners will be announced at a special award ceremony at the conclusion of the festival.
Ahmed Al Hitmi, Dhow Festival Committee Manager, said: “The festival pays tribute to our ancestors who worked effortlessly to build a future for our country. It provides a platform for cultural exchange, promoting Qatari history, and educating the youth.”
The festival runs until Saturday. It is open to the public today and on Saturday from 9am to 10pm, tomorrow from 9am to 11pm and on Friday from 3pm to 11pm. Public schools may visit from 9am to noon.The Peninsula
As an Alaskan girl, I grew up on the water and could not help falling in love with these old boats. I have hundreds – maybe thousands – of photos of boats, fishing, fishermen mending nets, fishermen making traps – I’m a sucker for a marine photo op :-) Some of these are Kuwait, some Doha.
“What do you mean?” I asked the elegant grinning lady who was asking me the question. Three former military wives, one Army, one Air Force and one Navy, and we had been talking about our world-wide lives and adventures.
“How are you doing? You haven’t been here long. Are you managing to settle in?” asked with enormous sympathy.
She caught me off guard.
Yes, I am happy. I’ve settled in. I have friends. I’m connected.
But her question caught me off guard, and all of a sudden I couldn’t answer.
“I’m doing OK” I managed to start. “But it’s like this church. I love this church, and at the same time, there are times I walk in and oh, how I miss our churches in the Middle East, where I would walk in and think ‘this is what heaven must look like’ especially at Christmas, with all the Indian families in their saris and finery, and the Africans in their brocades and elaborate head-dresses, and the people from all over the world. The music was simpler, and at the Christmas Eve service, we sang ‘Silent Night’ in every language in the church . . . I miss that.”
There are times the memories catch me unaware, and leave me breathless.
AdventueMan and I went grocery shopping today and when the cashier told me the total, AdventureMan almost gasped. I just laughed and told him that’s why I never took him grocery shopping with me in Kuwait – the sticker shock would have killed him.
Life here is definitely easier.
On the other hand, we have had to revise our ideas about Kuwait drivers. At first, we just thought there were a lot of Kuwaitis living in Pensacola; now we have realized that there are people who just drive as they please. Some of them are stoned out of their minds. I witnessed an accident last week where when I checked the driver of the car that was hit, she grinned at me loopily – and then disappeared. It was bizarre, and I wonder how many people are on the roads as impaired as she was. She went right through a stop sign as if it weren’t even there, and if the car had hit 6 inches more forward, she would have been dead. She didn’t have a scratch. And she was not at all concerned, just that loopy grin. “Elegantly wasted” said the driver of the car who hit her.
We both have a lot going on. With connection comes commitment and obligation. We try to coordinate our schedules at the beginning of the week so we can help one another out. The highlight is that each afternoon I am taking care of our new little granddaughter. AdventureMan/Baba often comes by and naps in the peaceful environment just to be with us. She is a sweet, laughing little baby, never very fussy. He offers me a day off, which occasionally I take, or he takes a time when I have a meeting or an appointment. We have both discovered how very much we like the ‘work’ of grandparenting. :-)
We’re managing. :-)