A home for a home

UAE property developer partners with UNHCR and The Big Heart Foundation to build new homes for refugees in Kenya.

Kakuma is a sprawling refugee camp in north-western Kenya hosting some 200,000 refugees from across east Africa, including South Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Burundi.

The camp opened in 1992 and many of its long-term residents now live in mudbrick houses, but new arrivals are forced to crowd together in tents made from plastic sheeting and bamboo under scorching temperatures until the UN Refugee agency, UNHCR, can find them something more permanent.

Moved by the plight of the 30,000 refugees stuck on waiting lists for homes, UAE-based property developer, Arada -  in partnership with Sharjah’s The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) - is sponsoring the construction of new houses and other infrastructure in the camp.

In 2022, the company’s CSR arm, the Arada Foundation, contributed just over US$ 1 million to pay for 407 new homes for 2,000 refugees and support an additional 43,000 people with clean water.

And this year, for every new house sold in the company’s new Masaar development in Sharjah during Ramadan, Arada says it will make a donation to UNHCR, who will then make cash available to refugee families in Kakuma to source materials locally like cement, sand, stone blocks, and timber to build their own home.

Peace Winds Japan (PWJ), an NGO, will oversee construction of the shelters, while UNHCR staff will deliver training to support the refugees and ensure the build quality meets standards.

“This approach creates accountability, and helps the recipients learn project management skills, as well as giving them a sense of pride in their new home,” explains Rosa Piro, Arada’s senior director of Business Development.

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Sharjah's deputy ruler and Arada Chairman, Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, travelled to Kenya to launch the “Home for a Home” project. Photos: Arada

“This approach creates accountability, and helps the recipient learn project management skills, as well as giving them a sense of pride in their new home.”

Rosa Piro, Arada

The final number of properties built in Kenya will depend on how many units Arada sells in Sharjah, but the firm has committed to contributing to the construction of at least 350 new refugee homes.

The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), founded and led by Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, the wife of the Ruler of Sharjah, is one of the Gulf region’s largest philanthropic foundations. It supports and runs projects to help and empower four million refugees and other people in need in over 25 countries around the world.

Named the UNHCR’s first Eminent Advocate in 2013, Sheikha Jawaher has also been personally involved with a number of refugee initiatives such as launching “The Big Heart Campaign for Syrian Refugee Children,” and most notably contributing more than $23m to support refugees and internally displaced people from Syria, Iraq, Somalia, and Rohingya refugees from Myanmar.

Prior to that, she helped raise more than $22m for Palestinian refugees in 2007 and $6.3m for those displaced by the war in Lebanon in 2006.

Arada was established in 2017 by Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi and Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Alsaud, and it launched the Arada Foundation in 2020.

Its charitable activities include: a donation of $545,000 to help families affected by the earthquake in Türkiye and Syria; 2,000 food parcels for people affected by the 2020 Beirut blast; scholarship funding for 50 students in Sharjah; fresh produce parcels for UAE residents during Ramadan in 2021; and support for Covid-19 relief efforts in India and the UAE. - PA