Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Social Bandage - raising awareness and extending a helping hand.

What started off as a dream expressed in 60 seconds at Startup Dubai, an event for pitching and developing project ideas, is now a reality, and is making a difference not only locally but also globally.

“My mother passed away when I was young. She had cancer, which was discovered very late,” 25-year-old Aisha Saeed Hareb, founder of Social Bandage, told Gulf News.
The initiative, led by her, aims at both raising health awareness in society and providing medical aid for people in need.
She used the platform Startup Dubai to share her concept and see where it took her.

The initial idea started off as a “medical help” website, which was going to host a group of doctors who could be contacted in a matter of minutes for emergencies, medical advice or treatment.

It then developed into ‘Social Bandage’, which is more focused on social awareness on global health issues within Emirati society and then trying to work a change for the people affected by it.


The Dubai-based entrepreneur said: “As soon as I pitched my idea, it was adopted by the Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Establishment for Young Business Leaders, who offered us space to work in and start operating.”

The first campaign launched by the group, which was a huge success, was named ‘Give a Wheelchair’. T-shirts with that slogan were sold initially through word-of-mouth and at events. All returns went to buying wheelchairs and donating them to those in need in developing countries.

They are also now available in the online store, which was launched two months ago, and stocks t-shirts, wrist bands designed by Emirati artists and designers, with whom Aisha collaborates. Fifteen per cent of their profits go towards the production of the items while the remaining is donated to charitable organisations.

The wheelchair campaign, which was met with enthusiasm and support from not only people in the UAE but also Europe, has so far raised donations for more than 300 wheelchairs, and is still ongoing till it reaches its target of a 1000 units.

Young artists and designers also showed their support by creating and donating additional merchandise such as bracelets to the online store as part of the same campaign.

“Our next project, ‘Improve Kenya’ was launched on the UAE National Day in 2011. I wanted the youth of my nation to celebrate by learning more about the health issues in that part of the world and giving to those less fortunate.”

The project was also a success and in October 2012, the profits generated from the selling of products under that theme, contributed towards the building of a maternity hospital and the renovation of four schools in Kenya.

Besides launching their individual campaigns, the team maintains its reach with the community through their ambassador program, in which they work with successful young people in society who promote the idea on their own networks.

Social Bandage also partners and sponsors different social and charity events to raise awareness about their initiatives, campaigns and goals.

These events included the Mubadala Ramadan Football tournament that took place in July 2012.

Another successful event, which they partnered with, was ‘Supplication’ - an art exhibition showcasing the work of Katarina Premfors, a Swedish photographer, which also took place in July 2012.

In addition to Aisha, six other board members, who are all entrepreneurs, run Social Bandage.
The operational team comprises a business lawyer, a website developer who manages the online store, and two project agents located in India and Kenya.

“I dream of establishing my own social academy designed to support charities and volunteer work on a local level,” Aisha said.

“Youth in society who volunteer or are involved in any charity work are the heroes and change makers of both today and tomorrow. They have great potential to motivate and inspire a whole generation - to live more responsibly and support those who are in need.”

Follow them at @social_bandage
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