Nearly a decade ago, Joplin was hit by a mile-wide tornado that killed over 150 people and destroyed much of the Missouri town, including six major academic institutions. This was the deadliest single tornado to ever touch down in Missouri and the 7th deadliest in all of US history.
After the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi saw the devastation, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Embassy in Washington, DC reached out to the Joplin school district to provide humanitarian assistance in any way possible.
Shortly after, the UAE government pledged a significant donation to help fund local high school students with educational resources such as textbooks and personal laptop computers. This was part of the Joplin Public Schools (JPS) 1:1 technology initiative, aimed at providing all 2,200 students with laptops that allow for “virtual classrooms” until the new high school was built.
In addition, the UAE Embassy issued a challenge grant that vowed to match, dollar-for-dollar, any additional funds donated to the 1:1 initiative.
Rebuilding Mercy Hospital
Beyond the Joplin school district, the UAE Embassy stepped forward to restore Joplin Mercy Hospital, one of the 8,000 buildings destroyed from the tornado. Mercy is among the top five largest U.S. health systems and one of the largest employers in the local area.
This initiative came upon the tornado’s one-year anniversary, when Ambassador Al Otaiba paid a special visit to Joplin in support of ongoing reconstruction efforts. During his stay, he announced a grant on behalf of the UAE government that would not only help rebuild the hospital, but fund a brand new neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU) for the local community. Previously, the hospital did not have NICU capabilities, requiring parents and families to travel hours for intensive medical care.
In support of the new state-of-the-art facility, Ambassador Al Otaiba stated, “The resilience of the people of Joplin is an inspiration to the entire world. Emiratis have watched this community recover and rebuild from the disaster last year, and we are honored to help Mercy deliver an enhanced level of medical care to children. It is our hope that current and future generations of Joplin residents will benefit from the hospital’s new Children’s Wing and NICU.”
Today, the level III NICU is in full operation and provides Joplin’s premature and critically ill infants with specialized care, as well as a safe space for families to rest.
Partnering with Habitat for Humanity
As part of Habitat for Humanity’s “Ten for Joplin” project, the UAE also arranged for Emirati volunteers to make the 7,000 mile journey to Joplin to help rebuild 10 homes in 16 days.
One year later, the rebuilding project extended a helping hand to Tuscaloosa, Alabama after the area was hit by a category EF4 tornado. As part of the Emirates Foundation’s Takatof and Sanid humanitarian programs, UAE volunteers traveled to Tuscaloosa to build Habitat for Humanity homes and to visit local schools and community leaders.
Lujan Mourad, Senior Projects Lead at Takatof, had previously worked with Habitat for Humanity in Joplin and was proud to continue the partnership. In support of the project, he stated, “A very strong relationship with the UAE Embassy in Washington, D.C., led to the Joplin trip and later to their current trip to Tuscaloosa. There are diplomats in the embassy who graduated from the University of Alabama, so internally at the embassy they decided to do here what they did in Joplin.”
This collaboration not only represented the UAE’s legacy of providing disaster relief, but the region’s steadfast commitment to foreign aid and philanthropic giving.
Learn more about the UAE’s dedication to disaster and humanitarian assistance.