1 / 4The 56-year-old philanthropist has a small office in Uganda and currently looks after almost 10,600 children and 7,400 families as well as 20 orphanages, five schools, a hospital and a clinic across several countries on the continent. (Photos/Supplied)
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- Ali Al-Ghamdi — dubbed ‘Father of the Orphans’ — looks after 10,600 children, 20 orphanages
SALEH FAREED August 21, 2021
JEDDAH: There are no easy answers to the unfortunate situation facing so many orphans living in poverty in Africa, but a Saudi man is doing what he can to make the lives of those less fortunate a little better.
Ali Al-Ghamdi, dubbed the “Father of the Orphans” by grateful families and villagers, has devoted most of his life to the welfare of poor orphans and directed his energies toward offering children a brighter future.
The 56-year-old philanthropist has a small office in Uganda and currently looks after almost 10,600 children and 7,400 families as well as 20 orphanages, five schools, a hospital and a clinic across several countries on the continent.
I do not want anything in return. All I want is to make those orphans happy.
Al-Ghamdi was born in Al-Bahah but grew up in Jeddah in far from privileged surroundings. In 2001, he chose to dedicate his life to philanthropy, focusing on children of all races, colors and religious backgrounds.
He began working to support the needs of African orphans and spoke out about their suffering, especially the problems facing young children.
Al-Ghamdi told Arab News that he was inspired by the late Kuwaiti philanthropist Abdul Rahman Al-Sumait to adopt a life working for those less fortunate.
After returning to the Kingdom this week to spend time with family, he said: “Despite the COVID-19 situation in Africa, we have not stopped working. Due to the pandemic, there is famine and death from starvation, an issue the region was suffering from already. But with the spread of the virus, life has been disrupted even further.”
He added: “We have continued our efforts helping and supporting the children and families, but for now we’re focused on food and medicine. We have been able to provide a substantial quantity of food and a good percentage of malaria medicine to those in need.”
Al-Ghamdi said that he embarked on a life of charity after learning about the problems facing young children isolated from society in orphanages.
“I started to gather information about the culture and care for orphans. After I gained what I needed, I headed to Africa to implement whatever I learned. Why Africa? Because of poverty, epidemics and disasters.”
Al-Ghamdi said that he cannot rest seeing the suffering of others and feels obliged to help in whatever way he can, putting his care into action not only financially but also physically by arranging for supplies, building schools and medical centers, cooking, cleaning and teaching moral values.
“I do not want anything in return. All I want is to make those orphans happy,” he said.
Al-Ghamdi added that his wife is always by his side to support him whenever his spirits are low. The couple were unable to have children for 13 years, but now he is the proud father of four children, a boy and three girls.
After years of effort and struggle, Al-Ghamdi’s work slowly gained public attention, and people began recognizing his efforts.
In 2018, he received the Shining World Compassion Award, worth $30,000. Two years later, he received more than $272,000 from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, UAE vice president and prime minister, and the ruler of Dubai, during the third edition of the Arab Hope Makers awards ceremony for sponsoring orphans across Africa without external financial support.
Al-Ghamdi spends any money he receives from awards helping those in need. Many of the orphans he has helped have gone on to enjoy successful careers as lawyers and doctors, for example.
“We helped prepare them for school, and we gave them the support they needed so they would feel equal to their peers in school.”
Some who have benefited from his lifelong campaign to empower the disadvantaged are now grown-ups and beacons of hope. Ugandan orphans Hassan and Sharifah, who grew up in Al-Ghamdi’s care, studied medicine at Makerere University in Uganda and graduated in June 2021.
Al-Ghamdi told Arab News that he has never regretted his chosen life, although there are difficult moments.
“When I walk in the street, markets or malls, many people gather and ask for help or take pictures with me, and I wouldn’t say I like that. But you find yourself forced to answer everyone and the day is lost while you are among them,” he said.
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