Five minutes with Dr Imtiaz Sooliman

By Drum Digital
08 October 2014

Dr Imtiaz Sooliman founded the Gift of the Givers in 1992 which has become the largest non-governmental, disaster response organisation in the African continent.

Dr Imtiaz Sooliman founded the Gift of the Givers in 1992 which has become the largest non-governmental, disaster response organisation in the African continent.

His organisation is about alleviating mass human suffering and aims to serve with compassion, kindness and mercy. To date they have delivered over R1-billion in aid to over 41 countries. Recently Gift of the Givers provided relief and assistance in Lagos at the site of the collapsed building of the Synagogue Church of All Nations guest residency where over 80 South Africans died.

Closer to home, they provided assistance to families in Marikana during Lonmin Platinum strike,  which took over five months and is recorded as the longest strike in South African history.

Dr Sooliman was invited to address the Albertina Sisulu Memorial lecture at Wits University in honour of her contribution and service to South African.

What is Gift of the Givers working on now?

We are involved in several countries simultaneously, but at home we are working on our Jumpstart Schools Entrepreneurial Programme. The programme is offered to grade 11 learners in rural schools. They have to come up with a business idea, which we help them design their brand, logo and offer them business cards. Successful businesses are funded upto R10 000 per month.  One of your success stories involves a young woman who has opened a successful informal restaurant that serves traditional African food from across the continent. She has successfully found a niche market and has become so popular that she caters for different occasions.

Where is your next mission?

We have built a hospital in Syria which is currently a war zone. So far we have treated over 90 000 patients in three months.

We are also assisting the family of South Africans, Pierre and Yolande Korkie, who were captured in Taiz Province in Yemen and are being held hostage by the rebel group Al Queda.

The couple has been held hostage for over a year and there is a ransom  of $3-million. We do not have that kind of money, but we are assisting their family with the negotiations for their release.

You have witnessed many tragedies and saved many lives, which of these incidences resonates with you the most?

All the incidences we have worked in have their value: Haiti, Somalia, Gaza, Philippines and Syria. But the commonality is that we are amazed by how people receive us with gratitude. People have humility and faith and those who are suffering often receive us with warmth and courtesy.

You were invited to addressed the Albertina Memorial Lecture, how did her actions exemplify the spirit of the Gift of the Givers?

She was an outstanding human being. In all her trials she kept her dignity and compassion. She served people with warmth and humility and used her skills as a nurse by showing her willingness to serve.

You have received many accolades for you work, which of these are the most gratifying?

I have received honorary doctorates for social service from the Durban University of technology, Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Kwa Zulu Natal.

I have also received Presidential awards which are a confirmation that the work we are doing is good.

More of Dr Imtiaz Sooliman's accolades:

President's Order of the Star of South Africa from President F.W. De Klerk, which is the highest civilian award in the country;

The Pietermaritzburg City Council Civic Commendation Award for Outstanding Community Service received from President Nelson Mandela;

The Presidential Award, Tamgha-i-Eisaar, from Pakistan President for Pakistan Earthquake relief;

The Order of the Grand Counsellor of the Baobab: Silver award from President Jacob Zuma.

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