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UAE Portrait of a Nation: Others first is second nature for Reem

Reem bin Karam taps Emirati tradition and history to find her role models but a life of selflessness is hers alone and she is the example for young compatriots to follow as she shares lessons written in tears of family tragedy.

SHARJAH // A life-long passion for helping others and giving back to society is what inspires Reem bin Karam go to work each day.

Ms bin Karam, 38, is director of the Sharjah Childrens Centre, a board member with the Sharjah Tatweer Forum, and chairwoman of the Higher Organising Committee of the Pink Caravan Ride.

At the age of 17, the Emirati was chosen to give a speech during the inauguration of the American University of Sharjah, from which she received a bachelors in interior design.

“It was the proudest moment in my life. The dean chose me to deliver the speech on behalf of the student body and in English. AUS was the first co-ed university, which had some resistance. That moment fine tuned my character,” says Ms bin Karam.

From an early age, she was taught to give back to her community. Charity work and event management became her passions and part of her personality and career.

“It was embedded in us from an early age. Whether it was helping out in our neighbourhood, helping the milkman by carrying his milk, going to the stables and brushing the horses, especially in the summer, it really shaped my personality,” said Ms bin Karam.

“Since then, helping and supporting others has become part of my work and personality.”

After graduating from university, she became a member of the Sharjah Tatweer Forum, a non-profit organisation established to empower youth, develop and promote entrepreneurship, supporting viable projects for Sharjah and foster community outreach initiatives.

She became a board member in 2010 and manages the marketing strategy, brand image and public awareness.

“I love planning, helping out, and giving support,” says Ms bin Karam. “Organising and executing ideas that makes a difference, these steps I took all helped shape who I am today.”

Her role models are Founding Father Sheikh Zayed, Sheikha Fatima, the Mother of the Nation, Sharjah Ruler Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi and his wife, Sheikha Jawaher.

“I get emotional when someone mentions Sheikh Zayed. He literally built this country from the ground up, and I am proud to be part of this great country,” said Ms bin Karam.

Despite her achievements, her life has been hit by tragedy. Last year, she lost two sisters and her mother in a fire at the family’s home.

“It was the hardest moment in my life was when I had to break the news to my brother, who was in a coma for three days after the fire broke out in our home,” said Ms bin Karam.” This tragic experience gave me a new perspective on life.”

Work as director of Sharjah Children Centres helped her through mourning. The centres offer programmes and activities outside the scope of schools to help unleash children’s creative skills and improve their development.

“These children reflected me in every sense. It is where I found myself. It so much fun to work with these children and help bring out the best in them and push them to explore and be inquisitive,” says Ms bin Karam.

“I’m hoping for the centres to reach international levels in terms of investing in human capital and in children.” Helping youngsters push themselves to work harder to achieve their goals gives her great satisfaction.

“Last year, a 12-year-old from the centres did not win the chairperson’s spot in the election for Sharjah Children’s Shura Council.

“He came to me upset, telling me he did not get the position. I told him that he has to improve himself and work harder to be able to win the election.

“From an early age he had been brainwashed to do certain things, due to family and the culture surrounding him. But he managed to see outside the box. He pushed himself to the limit and won this year’s election and now he is chairperson, which made me so proud.”

When the working day is done, Ms bin Karam relaxes by visiting the flower store she ran with her late sister, Ameera.

“It is a place where I get a breather, I explore my creative side, especially designing, and wind down,” she said.

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The National