Mohammed bin Rashid crowns Ahmed Al Falasi as the Arab Hope Maker 2020 and rewards Dh5 million to five finalists

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, awarded the five Arab Hope Makers finalists Dh1 million each, crowning Ahmed Al Falasi, from the UAE, as the Arab Hope Maker 2020 for his humanitarian work in establishing advanced kidney dialysis centers and incubators in Kenya’s Mombasa, following an audience vote at a grand variety show in City Walk’s Coca-Cola Arena.

Besides the show proceeds, 10 entities and entrepreneurs collectively contributed Dh44 million to supporting the construction of Magdi Yacoub Global Heart Center in Egypt that, once complete, will conduct over 10,000 free-of-charge heart surgeries annually, 70 per cent to children from all over the Arab world. 

His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, announced a Dh44 million match to the contributions raised during the event, bringing the total amount to Dh88 million that the Arab Hope Makers initiative will dedicate to support the cause.

Al Falasi was selected from an overwhelming 92,000 participations from 38 countries in the third edition of the Arab Hope Makers that honors individuals, teams or entities with philanthropic effort that makes a positive difference in their communities. 

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said, “Hope Makers are the real champions of giving and inspirational examples of leaders taking the initiative to make a positive difference in other people’s lives.”

He added, “Through working for their communities, Hope Makers lead a positive societal movement that supports development and restores faith in the future of the Arab world.” 

“We followed tens of thousands of inspiring stories of the Arab Hope Makers who, with their positivity and optimism, emerged as beacons of hope in their communities.”

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum noted, “The Hope Makers sincerely help others without seeking recognition or personal gains, setting a great example for others on turning challenges into opportunities.”

He added, “this year, we dedicated the proceeds of the final Arab Hope Makers show to supporting an Arab humanitarian project that provides free healthcare to save thousands of hearts.”

“our message through the Arab Hope Makers initiative is well delivered by these champions in our region who demonstrate that positivity brings innovation and progress is the outcome for those who turn opportunities into challenges to light other people’s paths and leads initiative in their communities.”

He noted, “The Arab world has a flowing stream of potential, capabilities and energies as witnessed through the champions of giving we continue to celebrate.”

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum concluded, “I’m proud of the 92,000 champions of giving in the Arab Hope Makers initiative have now become pioneers in the Arab world’s humanitarian field.”

During the event, the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI) announced the Egyptian actor and comedian Ahmed Helmy as the “Ambassador of Hope.” The artist surprised the audience by donating one million Egyptian pounds (Dh230,000) to the cause.

The 4-hour grand show featured Arab headliners Nawal Al Kuwaitia, Balqees, Mohammed Assaf and RedOne, with leading media personalities and celebrities who took part in hosting the show including Kuwaiti comedian and actor Tariq Al Ali, Syrian actor Kosai Khauli, Saudi Arabian Yasser Al Qahtani and Egyptian media figures Mona Al Shazli and Amr Adeeb alongside Egyptian actor Ahmed Helmy. 

Honoring lifetime achievement

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum honored Dr. Magdi Yacoub for his medical and scientific achievements and humanitarian contributions that impacted millions of lives around the world through a career spanning over five decades.

The five finalists

The Arab Hope Makers final show highlighted the inspiring stories of the third edition’s five finalists before an audience of 12,000 people at Coca-Cola Arena at City Walk in Dubai.

The five finalists were Dr. Mujahed Mustafa, from Egypt, a general surgeon who abandoned a job offer at a prestigious hospital in Cairo to provide treatment and healthcare services for 10 Egyptian pounds (Dh2) or free-of-charge to the less fortunate in his village Tala of Beni Suef Governate; Ali Al Ghamdi, from Saudi Arabia, widely known as “the father of the orphans” for sponsoring 7,000 orphans across Africa without external financial support; Steve Sosebee, an American who obtained the Palestinian nationality, dedicated his life to providing medical aid and protheses for children in Gaza and the West Bank; Ahmed Al Falasi, from the UAE, who dedicated his time and resources to establishing advanced kidney dialysis centers in Africa; and Mohamed Bzeek, Libyan-American, has been housing and fostering abandoned terminally-ill children in the United States.  

Audience vote

The grand show presented the inspiring stories of the five finalists through 3-minute tear-jerking videos to an audience of 12,000 people at Coca-Cola Arena in City Walk. The audience then had the chance to vote for the Arab Hope Maker 2020.

After each video, the finalists answered questions on stage addressed by leading Arab media figures. Egyptian TV presenter Muna Al Shazli asked Emirati finalist Ahmed Al Falasi and his family on stage about the reasons they left a comfortable life in the UAE to help people in Africa, while Syrian actor Kosai Khauli addressed Mohamed Bzeek’s way of connecting with the terminally-ill children he had been fostering. Egyptian journalist and TV presenter Amr Adeeb inquired about Dr. Mujahed Mustafa’s reason to continue his humanitarian initiative for over 30 years without seeking ways to make profit and Palestinian singer Mohammed Assaf looked into Steve Sosebee’s secret of belonging to Palestinians. The Saudi Arabian footballer Yasser Al Qahtani inquired about Ali Al Ghamdi’s ability to fund his own initiative despite potential financial challenges he could be facing for not receiving external support. 

Ambassador of hope

The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives named the Egyptian actor and comedian Ahmed Helmy the “Ambassador of Hope.” Helmy will collaborate with the foundation to take the message of hope to different segments of the Arab world, and primarily to youth. The artist surprised the audience by donating one million Egyptian pounds (Dh230,000) to the cause.    

Selection criteria

The third edition of the Arab Hope Makers attracted a whopping 92,000 entries across the world, compared to 87,000 in 2018 and 65,000 in its first edition in 2017.

Candidates go through several qualifying stages before being shortlisted to 20 semi-finalists. Based on an extensive evaluation of the impact and outreach of projects, the main committee selects five finalists whose inspiring stories are shared before thousands of people in a final grand ceremony in Dubai before crowning the winner.

The committee prioritizes innovative campaigns that efficiently address challenges facing communities. Projects are shortlisted based on candidates’ commitment and dedication to ensuring the success of their initiatives in serving communities. The committee also looks at the initiatives’ progress over time, sustainability, continuity and replicability in other societies to benefit wider range of communities.

Humanitarian Cause of the Year

For the first time since its inception, proceeds of the Arab Hope Makers show were allocated to supporting the construction of the Magdi Yacoub Global Heart Center in Egypt to provide free-of-charge cardiac care to less fortunate communities across the Arab world.

The new heart center in Egypt will expand access to a world-class treatment among vulnerable communities through a fully-equipped facility with the latest research and surgical technologies and qualified medical cadres. 

The center will conduct more than 10,000 heart surgeries annually, of which 70 per cent will target children. Its clinics will also receive over 80,000 patients annually and train over 1,000 cardiac surgeons and cardiologists through the Magdi Yacoub Global Heart Foundation. The cadre of researchers and healthcare professionals will create a detailed genetic map of cardiovascular diseases in the Arab world, based on studying previous cases and past scientific observations to help develop new diagnostic mechanisms and early intervention methods.   

Figures of hope

Ten entities and businessmen made a financial contribution to support building the Magdi Yacoub Global Heart Center, raising a total of Dh44 million as follows:

- Emirates Airline: Dh3 million
- Dubai Electricity and Water Authority: Dh5 million
- Roads and Transport Authority: Dh6 million
- Emirates Islamic Bank: Dh5 million
- Al Ansari Exchange: Dh3 million
- Mishal Kanoo: Dh3 million
- DAMAC Foundation: Dh3 million
- Sawiris Foundation for Social Development: Dh6 million
- Lulu Group International: Dh3 million
- GEMS Education: Dh3 million
- Anonymous donor: Dh1 million


The final show kicked off with the UAE National Anthem, performed by Balqees. The Emirati singer was part of the great line-up of artists RedOne, Mohammed Assaf and Nawal Al Kuwaitia, who performed their widely-admired hits. Nawal Al Kuwaitia surprised the audience with a specially-dedicated song for the Arab Hope Makers.

A pan-Arab production

The region’s biggest music production, composed and produced by RedOne, was released during the show, bringing together over 50 Arab celebrities to share the message of hope and humanity with the world. The production highlights the importance of hope in defeating challenges and achieving the impossible.

Stories of hope

The inspiring stories of the five finalists are narrated as follows:

Ali Al Ghamdi, former volleyball coach 
Nationality: Saudi Arabia
Location: around Africa
Experience: about 19 years

Labelled the “father of orphans,” Al Ghamdi fosters 7,000 orphans and children from disadvantaged families in 28 countries across Africa. He also provides assistance to more than 2,000 families, empowering them to nurture orphans.

Besides establishing three schools that benefit over 1,200 students, including the special needs, Al Ghamdi helped construct 21 orphanages.

His journey with orphans started when his wife gave birth to twins after years of having conception difficulties. He had adopted Faris at his homeland Saudi Arabia, and after he got twins, he started travelling across Africa to support orphans where hunger and malnutrition kills thousands.  

“People think dying of hunger is a myth, but I swear I had many children dying in my arms.”

Faris, his foster child, joins him in his trips and says “I’m an orphan like them. And I have been blessed with a father and mother who have raised me in a family.”

Al Ghamdi established a programme to connect orphans with alternative families that shelters for them. He supports those families with tonnes of food items every month.

“I believe children shouldn’t live in orphanages or they risk losing the chance to shape a better future for themselves. They should live in a warmth of a family.”

Al Ghamdi uses his own personal funding, usually relying on his end-of-service gratuity. He doesn’t own a car nor a house, but leads his life in a rented apartment in the suburb.

“True happiness is when you see an innocent child smiling because of you. The happiest people are those who make others happy,” said Al Ghamdi.

Mohamed Bzeek, former engineer, now full-time caregiver to terminally-ill children
Age: 64
Nationality: Libyan-American
Location: Los Angeles
Experience: over 30 years

Mohamed Bzeek, father of a son with special needs, noticed the rising numbers of abandoned children due to their terminal illness.

He took it as his responsibility to raise them at his home, knowing that they need to feel loved, supported and cared for.

Over 22,000 children are banned every year due to their terminal illness in the United States. Bzeek says, “No one wants to deal with death. These children are born terminally ill and they needs a lot of care and medications, so no one wants them. No one wants to deal with this burden. They spend their life in the hospital until they die.”

 “The way parents leave their children is still beyond me. How do they live, sleep and eat knowing they left their children’s behind?”

Bzeek has partaken proper training to enable him to provide the best care for his foster children.

Over 30 years, he sheltered more than 80 terminally ill children at his home.

He is currently fostering a child with a life-threatening disease in her brain that made her lose her sight, hearing ability and mobility. “When I take these children, I consider them my own. I’m not a foster parent,” he said. “Even if they don’t hear or see me, I know they feel the care and love I give them.”

Bzeek’s support and love often keeps the children alive.

“I had a child who went to hospital 179 times, he doesn’t eat and gets sick by even drinking water. When I took him to the hospital, doctors gave him a maximum of two months to live, but he has been with me for eight years now.”

Despite losing 10 children, he still insisted to continue his journey of giving. Time and time again, he visits their cemeteries. “The moment I visit their graves, a string of memories just run by from the moment I took them from the hospital to the moment they died and I buried them.” 

He added, “This is a 24/7 job. You cannot take sick leave or a break because you didn’t sleep well last night.”

In 2016, Bzeek was diagnosed with colon cancer, which prompted him to do even more for the children.

“I felt what these children feel. I was 62 when I got diagnosed, yet I felt scared and petrified because I had to face doctors alone since my wife had passed away long time ago. Like these kids, I was all alone and it was scary.”

Five of the children he raised were adopted and they are currently studying in university.

“We all have mercy in our hearts. If we used this mercy in helping people, we will find non-ending happiness.”

Bzeek relies on government support and crowdfunding campaigns to support his work.

Ahmed Al Falasi, businessman
Age: 60
Nationality: Emirati
Location: Kenya, Mombasa

Ahmed Al Falasi was devastated when his mother died of kidney failure. She had struggled for years during her treatment and kidney dialysis. 

On a visit to Kenya, he was shocked to find ragged beds and patients on the waiting list for months before they receive their kidney dialysis. One bed sometimes accommodated two people at once.

“I once saw a woman and felt she is my mother telling me that she’s sick and she needs to do her dialysis. These people are less fortunate and I wonder how they live like this?”

Al Falasi refurbished the Coast General Hospital in Kenya’s Mombasa, transforming it into one of the most advanced medical facilities in Kenya.

He prepared a kidney dialysis section that supports 8,000 patients. He also established a new born unit with 570 beds and incubators to benefit 17,000 newborns monthly.

He also constructed wells and houses for people affected by floods in Mombasa.

Al Falasi’s work has also left a mark in China after he established a school, an orphanage and a fund to support families.

His wife and daughter are his main companions on his humanitarian missions. The family relies on their own personal funding to support their initiative. 

Dr. Mujahed Mustafa, general surgeon
Age: 60
Nationality: Egyptian
Location: Tala village, Beni Suef Governate, Egypt
Experience: over 35 years

Known as the doctor of the poor, Dr. Mujahed Mustafa has dedicated his life to combating poverty and illness in his hometown Bani Suef, located in the South of Cairo.

After graduating, Mustafa was offered a job at the esteemed Kasr Al Ainy Hospital, a research and teaching hospital in Cairo, Egypt. He rejected the offer and chose to stay at Tala village of Bani Suef Governate, treating his patients for only 10 Egyptian pounds (Dh2). People who cannot afford the treatment are given free checkups and medicines.

Mustafa’s services are offered where medical facilities across Egypt usually charge patients up to 300 Egyptian pounds (Dh70) for only checkup. 

On a daily basis, Mustafa sees 200-250 patients.

He has performed more than 50,000 free surgeries. He treats 60,000 patients annually, providing care for over two million patients over the past 30 years.

 “Before my father dies, he always reminded me of my responsibility as a doctor. He also told me ‘every day you leave your home and go to your clinic, don’t lie and don’t steal.  People trust you and will listen to you because you are a doctor. They trust you with their bodies and money. Whatever you do, make sure you are fulfilling this great responsibility.’”

The father of seven doctors, Mustafa urged his children to take his journey forward. He is currently building a 6-storey hospital to provide villagers with free treatment. “I wish I can live to see it complete.”

Besides his work in healthcare, Mustafa sponsored the education of 1,500 students from less fortunate families. Before school starts, he buys them uniforms and shoes because they don’t feel orphans. He donates 200,000 bread for poor people.

The Egyptian International Organization for Human Rights and Development honored him for his work.

Steve Sosebee, President and CEO of the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF)
Nationality: American, obtained the Palestinian nationality
Age: 53
Location: Ramallah, Palestine - Kent, OHIO
Experience: 25 years running the PCRF

In 1990, Steve Sosebee was working as a journalist when he met Mansour, 10, and Sabah, 11, Abu Sneineh from Hebron who were injured by a bombing of their home. He took them from the West Bank to Akron, Ohio for free medical care. They were the first kids to ever be sent to the USA for free medical care in the intifada.

Sosebee is an American who lives as a Palestinian in the West Bank with the same restrictions of movement that every Palestinian has to live under.

Sosebee then met a Palestinian woman named Huda al Masry, a social worker with the YMCA in Jerusalem. They married in 1993, and had two daughters, Jenna and Deema. Together they built the PCRF with many volunteers all over the world, and managed to send hundreds of children to the USA for free care.

Now 53 years old, Sosebee brought more than 5,000 doctors to Palestine who treated more than 25,000 patients in the West Bank and Gaza. The medical care he provides has changed the lives of over 2,000 children of the special needs and supplied over 40,000 prostheses.

In 2009, Huda passed away from cancer after a long battle, and Sosebee moved back with his daughters to Palestine where they built the first public pediatric cancer department named after her in Beit Jala Hospital in the West Bank that treats over 1,200 children annually. Another center was established in Gaza.

In 2016, he remarried Dr. Zeena Salman, a pediatric oncologist, and she also is dedicated to the lives of Arab children as a volunteer with the PCRF. The couple is working hard to continue saving children’s lives in Palestine.

“There are sad and happy stories; sad because a lot of them are suffering things no child should have to suffer.” He added, “When you live a life just for yourself, you feel empty and unfulfilled.”

About Arab Hope Makers

In 2017, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched Arab Hope Makers initiative, the largest of its kind in the region, to celebrate inspiring individuals, teams or entities whose philanthropic efforts serve humanity and make a difference in societies without seeking personal gains or recognition in return.

Under the umbrella of Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI), Arab Hope Makers are recognized for their humanitarian projects and initiatives that improve lives, alleviate the suffering of those in need and empower marginalized groups.