Global award for local hero

2016-11-12 18:50
Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman is the first South African to receive the Global Citizen Award for his humanitarian work.

Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman is the first South African to receive the Global Citizen Award for his humanitarian work. (Supplied)

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World-renowned humanitarian and Pietermaritzburg’s very own Dr Imtiaz Sooliman returned to London on Friday after 23 years — this time to receive the prestigious Global Citizen Award.

Sooliman is the first South African to receive this award presented by the international advisory firm Henley & Partners.

The last time Sooliman was in London was in 1993, when he started his first project, for Bosnia. He had attended a crisis conference in Britain.

The founder of internationally recognised humanitarian group Gift of the Givers, Sooliman was awarded the accolade for his groundbreaking work last night.

“Africa is being recognised for our capabilities. To receive this award is like being audited and passing every stringent test,” Sooliman said.

The award ceremony took place in London on a ship outside the iconic Savoy Hotel last night. The event marked the closing of the 10th annual Global Residence and Citizenship Conference at the hotel.

The Global Citizen Award was given to Sooliman in recognition of his tireless efforts to develop the Gift of the Givers Foundation into Africa’s largest disaster relief organisation.

“This award is not about us, it is about the world taking notice of Africa,” he said.

The organisation has raised more than R2 billion in live-saving aid for 42 countries around the world, including war-ravaged states such as Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, and Bosnia.

His team of 200 provides medical assistance, equipment and supplies, as well as high-energy and protein supplements, food and water to millions of people each year. During the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the organisation sent four rescue teams and aid materials to the country. At one point in 2011, it was the only international aid group providing food parcels to Somalia, airlifting 180 tons and shipping 2 000 tons of aid.

Before leaving for London on Thursday, Sooliman and his team offered their assistance to those who suffered the affects of Johannesburg’s floods.

“This recognition would not have been possible without collective support. My family and my teams who have dedicated themselves to this organisation are the real heroes,” he said.

Group chairperson of Henley & Partners Dr Christian H. Kälin said the Global Citizen Award is given each year to an inspirational individual who has made an extraordinary contribution towards improving the global community.

“Dr Sooliman is an exceptionally worthy recipient of the award as his work is not only visionary but also innovative in many ways,” he said.

Kälin commended Sooliman on his demonstration of “extraordinary courage and commitment”, saying the work of his foundation has had a significant impact on the lives of the most vulnerable in the world.

“I believe these are the most important reasons our award committee has given this year’s award to Dr Sooliman,” Kälin said.

Gift of the Givers was also recognised for its cutting-edge innovation and invention of the world’s first and only containerised hospital comprising 28 units.

The foundation also established Africa’s largest open-source computer lab.

The annual laureate of the Global Citizen Award is chosen by an independent award committee through a majority decision.

The award consists of a specially made commemorative medal, an award certificate signed by the chairperson of the committee and a $50 000 (R693 500) monetary prize, of which half is donated to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the other $25 000 is given to a charity of the recipient’s choice. The Award Committee is comprised of the following distinguished individuals:

• Princess Firyal of Jordan;

• Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, president of the Republic of Malta;

• Senator Joëlle Garriaud-Maylam, secretary of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Armed Forces, Senate of France;

• Professor Dr Khalid Koser OBE, executive director of GCERF and vice-chairperson of the Advisory Council on Migration, World Economic Forum, Geneval

• Father Dr Marek Urban CSsR, councillor of the Henley & Partners Foundation, Krakow;

• Namira Salim, artist, polar explorer and Virgin Galactic founder astronaut, Monaco; and

• Leigh Foster, chief of events, campaigns and goodwill ambassadors, UNHCR, Geneva.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  local awards

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