Sunday, April 27, 2014

Minbart: New store concept for art and fashion

“Finally my dream became true,” said Alia Al Qasimi, an Emirati entrepreneur who started her journey in fashion design after 12 years of hard work and dedication.

“Today, I am launching, Minbart, the efforts of two years of hard work and persuasion,” she said.

Alia believes that her passion for art and fashion make it work.
Minbart, which means “Art Platform”, is a combination of the Arabic word “Minbar” which means platform, and the English word Art, is a multi purpose art and fashion store.

Alia, the management design graduate has created a new zone that allow all fashion design and artist to showcase their products regardless to the idea, identity or experience.

“It is the first of its kind store, which can be a fashion store during the day, and an art gallery at night,” she said. Alia speaks with passion and pride about her newly launched initiative.

Located in Al Muneera Island in Abu Dhabi, the store has a completely new concept, with fully flexible furniture and set up that allows it to be used for selling products as well as accommodating Art events.

“It is not a typical department store. It is envisioned to be a space where local, regional or international designers, whether emerging or established, well known or low-key, can find a space to express freely, sell their work, and showcase their creativity.”

“Minbart’s free spirit is reflected in all of its details, starting from the choice of its location. Instead of the mall, I chose a space on an open shops street by the beach at Al Muneera Island in Abu Dhabi,” Alia says.

As a start, the concept store will be selling various women clothes, fashion jewellery, bags, footwear and accessories in addition to artwork, designer products and stationery, she added.

Alia, who personally picked the designers who she wanted to collaborate with from the UAE, Kuwait, London, Paris, Berlin, New York, Los Angeles, and Bali, bases her choice on three criteria: originality, creativity and the ability to meet Minbart’s quality standards.

“For the launch, we chose 30 designers from a total of 300, who we communicated with through look books, prices sheets, models, pictures, as well as face-to-face interviews during buying trips to different countries, “ Alia said.

“Our target audience are cultured, well-travelled and are into design. Our products therefore are hand picked and not mass-produced,“ she added.

According to Alia, Minbart aims at introducing beautiful minds who create beautiful things, and for that reason, each product comes with a story not only about the artist who created it but also about their handicraft, where it was made and the idea which inspired it.

The initiative’s strategy from the beginning was to engage the community, hear them and allow them to get as creative as they can, and that interaction has been the theme of Minbart’s teaser campaign which has been launched on Instagram at the beginning of the year. The account has more than 1500 followers now, she said.

None of this came easy.

“Like every startup, this took a lot of time, dedication and effort. I had to juggle my time between 9am to 5pm managerial full-time positions and this project. For months, I didn’t take a break. My evenings were all about Minbart,” Alia said.

Talking about difficulties of starting up a business, she said: “There are plenty of challenges that come with any startup. There’s funding, project planning, finding the right location and product, finding people to hire, as well as store setup, management and media plans.”

By way of advice, Alia said: “It’s plenty of work, but as long as you are passionate about it, you will find your way and will find it extremely rewarding.”

“Go for it, be determined, truly love it, and be strong,” Alia adds.

follow them on Twitter and Instagram @Minbart 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Positive Cancer-raising awareness for a cause

“My younger sister was diagnosed with cancer in 2007. Watching her trying to live with the illness was my inspiration to raise awareness about it,” says Reem Al Buainain, founder of Positive Cancer Foundation (PCF).

In 2010, Reem started tweeting about life, courage and dealing with cancer.
She told Gulf News: “Almost everyone knows someone who is suffering from cancer, be it a family member, a friend, a neighbour or a colleague.”

She later decided to change her twitter handle to @positivecancer after noticing how keen her followers were on those tweets. That is when the idea of starting an official foundation occurred to Reem and the PCF was officially launched as a nonprofit foundation to help change the way people live with and fight cancer, through developing a positive environment and attitude towards the disease and via harnessing the collective efforts of the patients and their families, the specialists and relevant government institutions.

Towards the end of 2011, with the help of her team, a group of young and enthusiastic UAE nationals, Reem launched the Positive Cancer website, which as a first initiative carried a successful nation-wide survey to assess the level of cancer awareness among the general public and patients and emphasised the importance of increased awareness to improve the lives of cancer patients while extending support to their families and friends.

Reem said: “The survey results indicated that the levels of public awareness on the impact of cancer on individuals and communities in the UAE is considered minimal in comparison to developed countries and to the socioeconomic development of the UAE.”
Seeing the high level of interaction with the survey, the team was inspired and on UAE’s 40th National Day they published their first video on their website, which was produced by a group of volunteers and featured cancer patents who are positively living with the illness and contributing towards the development of the nation.

The video spread rapidly and gained tremendous support from the twitter followers.
The foundation has been active since then through not just the internet, but also through radio shows and newspaper articles. They’ve also organised projects and workshops in different organisations within the community.
In March, 2013, the Positive Cancer Foundation officially became the first federal foundation concerning cancer in the UAE.

Reem said: “We will keep raising awareness and are working on projects to assist patients, their families and friends in finding the information, support and advice that will help them cope with the diagnosis. We aim for the support to be holistic and complement primary medical treatment with education and psychological support and care.

Last year, during the International Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October), the foundation organised a series of awareness workshops for the women of the UAE governmental organisations, universities and schools, entitled: “Early Awareness of Breast Cancer”. These were delivered by Rahma Wehelie, Ph.D., Founder and Managing Director of the Swedish institute Ridales Healthcare Consulting-Breast Cancer Training.

At the end of the year, the foundation were given the opportunity to manage the opening of Abu Dhabi Sports Council’s (ADSC) celebration for the UAE’s 42nd National Day, entitled: “In Love with Zayed”, which took place at the Abu Dhabi Theatre. As part of the event, there was an art exhibition of 42 paintings by UAE artists. All proceeds went to the PCF.

This was followed by another partnership with the ADSC’s event titled “Health and Physical Fitness Campaign”, which took place from January 19 – 22, 2014. The PCF organised an awareness forum entitled: “Think Positively and Move Forward.”
The forum covered a lecture delivered by Dr Mirna Ghannoum, Radiology and Radiation Therapy Specialist and Member of the European Society of Breast Cancer, where she provided general information on the different types of cancer.
Dr Ghannoum talked about the means of prevention, emphasising on the importance of early diagnosis that contributes immensely to avoiding the consequences of the disease. 

She focused on the ways of preserving one’s general health, mentioning some healthy practices that help with fitness.
For more details on the foundation, you can visit or follow them on twitter and Instagram @positivecancer


Thursday, December 26, 2013

The success of Hear My Voice conference, the first event of its kind to be held in Dubai, which aimed at raising awareness of Speech and Language Therapy and Hearing Loss and Deafness in particular, encouraged ThinkupGCC to do more for the cause.

“Through our support with social media, ushering, registration and production, the team and I were inspired by the conference, the audience and the lectures,” says Saleh Al Braik, the founder of ThinkUpGCC, a virtual Hub that is set on recognising talent and raising awareness and supporting different community causes.

“During the conference we also realised how little we knew about the subject. We learnt, for example, that the sign language differs not only across countries but also across dialects, “ adds Al Braik.

“When interacting with the attendees of the conference, we couldn’t help but notice observing how the deaf community seemed to keep to themselves rather than interact with everyone. Our volunteers noticed that as soon as they were not capable of communicating in the sign language, attendees with hearing problems turned away from them.

“When we asked Sabine, the speech therapist from Kalimati, the centre organising the event, she confirmed that the ignorance of the community about their struggles did frustrate them. As soon as we showed interest in sign language and started trying to learn the basics of it, they directly opened up to us.

“As soon as Ramadan was over this year, we at ThinkUpGCC were still pumped up from the charity campaign which we have worked on during the holy month, and so we started brainstorming for a new activity which we never explored before, and that was when the idea of Hear Me Sign starting shaping,” adds Al Braik.

“Hear Me Sign” is a campaign targeted at students with hearing problems who attend schools that are either fully dedicated to deaf students or which have hearing therapy classes once a week.
The campaign that took place in September, with the help of 175 ThinkUpGCC volunteers from across the Gulf, aimed at building relationships with 350 children with hearing problems and is an affirmation of their importance and value in society.

“We visited schools in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Fujairah, Al Ain, Bahrain and Kuwait and carried out fun celebrations filled with gifts, balloons and sign language themed merchandise, “ says Saleh.

The campaign was a collaboration between Axiom, ThinkUpGCC, and Kalimati speech centre, which offered sign language classes to volunteers and liaised for the ThinkupGCC to reach centers across the UAE and Gulf.

The first event took place in Dubai on September 9, while the second took place in Sharjah on September 11, followed by the one in Bahrain on the 12th, Fujairah on the 16th, Abu Dhabi on the 18th, Al Ain on the 22nd and Kuwait on the 26th.

An Emirati crew ran the full campaign from photographers to videographers and volunteers.
“When I first heard of the “Hear Us Sign Campaign” from Think Up, I was relieved. For the first time, society was reaching out to my deaf daughter, creating awareness and educating others about her language, “ said Bedour Al Raqbani, mother of 7-year-old Noora Al Kaabi who attends a mainstream private school in Dubai.

“My daughter attended some the events and was delighted by the attention she received from the organizers, volunteers and especially meeting other deaf children. I feel so honored to be Emirati and to witness this compassion. I hope this initiative will grow and nurture,” she added.
“I often feel very frustrated by the lack of facilities for my daughter. I think a lot needs to be done to make children such as Manhoor to be accepted in the society as a whole,“ says Kanza Dohdy, the mother of a six-year-old deaf girl who attends a mainstream nursery in Sharjah.

“A lot of programs can be introduced on school level to make the teachers and children aware of this situation, which in the longer run will be better not only for our special children but for better society as well,“ she adds.

Read more about this initiative on @thinkupgcc on both twitter and instagram and visit the hashtag #thinkhus

Story source

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Center for hearing impaired offers hope

What started off as a frustrated mother trying to find the special care for her two-year-old daughter diagnosed with profound hearing loss, has turned into Kalimati or ‘my words’. It is a one-of-its kind speech and communication center, which has an intake of of 35 children every year.

After a long search for a place that would cater to the needs of her daughter, Bedour Saeed Al Raqbani, director and founder of Kalimati decided to create that place for her daughter and other children with similar needs.

The center, which was established in October 2010, provides children as young as the age of two with specialised speech therapy sessions.

The cases of children vary between profound hearing loss, slight hearing problems, language delay and mild cases of Down syndrome and autism.

Initially, a child is brought in by his or her parents for an assessment that is done by one of the specialists at the center. Following that, a development plan is created.

Cases that require a different kind of treatment or a specific kind of care are transferred to external doctors or clinics, while the cases that can be improved within the center are monitored by one of the specialists, who usually does that through coordination with the child’s parents, audiologist and school.

As soon as a plan is set for the child, he or she comes in for one-hour evening sessions on an average of twice a week.

Parents are also required to attend therapy sessions in order to guage the development of their children and to apply the learning to the child’s daily activities outside the classroom.

Taking care of a child with special needs requires skill, education and dedication.

“I’ve never woken up in the morning and felt that I was going to work. I love doing this and find it purposeful and rewarding,” Sabine Al Deek, the technical manager and speech and language therapist at the center, told Gulf News.

The games and fun-based way of learning and the warmth of the staff makes it easier for children to form a bond.

“Countless things make me love this job. The fact that some parents tell me that their children start smiling once they recognise the roundabout that’s near the center is priceless,” she added.
Beside speech therapy classes, the center aims to raise awareness in the country on the issue of hearing loss.

The center works hard to raise awareness. One of the recent initiatives, that was a huge success for the facility was the Hear My Voice conference, attended by more than 300 people of different nationalities to share knowledge and experiences within the field.

They also offer a sign language course, open to all, every Saturday. For more on the center’s activities, you can

follow them on twitter @kalimatispeech

Story source


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Niftee kind of winter

It’s wintertime, the time for outdoor gatherings, BBQs and bonfires, and what’s better than drinking a cup of warm tea, enjoying good company and wrapping yourself up in a soft cashmere Niftee shawl on a February night out by the beach?

What’s so special about that shawl?  
It’s the fact that it’s a garment that will represent something very personal about you, since you get to create it yourself.

Niftee offers you a wide range of colors and allows you to choose what you want embroidered on your shawl, be it a name, special initials, dates or even a short quote which you really like.

Shawls are not the only personalized products that Niftee has to offer.

Infact, everything designed under this multidisciplinary brand which was created by AlJood Lootah , has a certain feel that differentiates it from others.

Her pieces are simple and modern yet have a very authentic and traditional Arabesque touch, which is felt through her inspirations, the concepts that she applies and the use of Arabic calligraphy in her pieces.

What started off as a graduation project at the end of her Graphic Design program in college has turned into a business that now keeps AlJoud busy at all hours.

“In senior year, I designed a few t-shirts inspired by the UAE heritage, and put them on sale online. The concept was new and different than what was offered in the market at that time.“

“I was surprised by the demand; the pieces were sold out in no time. This encouraged me to continue designing.”

The product line slowly expanded from T-shirts to dresses, scarves, jumpsuits, iPhone covers and Jewelry items. AlJoud Eventually launched her full Niftee website in 2007.

“I create a design every now and then apply it on a limited collection of items that I have as opposed to mass production. “

In 2008, Niftee introduced her famous custom-ordered bespoke cashmere shawls that directly became one of the most popular items, ordered all year round.  

She then started experimenting with different types of design and took on a number of corporate projects, which she enjoyed and decided to continue doing too, beside her personal line.

Ever since, her corporate project portfolio grew and now includes designs for the Abu Dhabi Art 2011 and 2012, Abu Dhabi Media Summit, Dubai Culture, Repetto Paris, UAE National Day committee, TEDxDubai and President of UAE cup series.

What’s impressive is not only the beautiful work created by Aljoud, but the fact that she does this all on her own, in her free time after working hours at her full-time job.

Whether it’s running the website, regular social media updates and interactions, receiving orders, designing art work, overseeing production, and shipping off delicately wrapped personalized packages, AlJoud does it herself, and does it perfectly.
How does she manage it all?

“I’m very passionate about Niftee, and even though it takes up all my free time, I love what I do. The key to success is proper time management. Always plan ahead.”

“ My family and friends are also very supportive. I would often share my ideas and concepts with them and would receive plenty of constructive feedback and suggestions whenever I’m working on a design or project. “ Says AlJoud. 

Follow her :
Twitter @Niftee
Instagram @Niftee