|King Faisal Foundation: Aunique Philanthropic Institution|
Following in the footsteps of the founder of the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia King Abdul Aziz Ibn Abdul Rahman Al-Saud, the four sons who have succeeded him devoted their lives to the well-being of the Saudi nation and the Islamic community. King Faisal Ibn Abdul Aziz, who ruled as the third king of the modern Saudi State from 1964 till his death in 1975, was widely respected not only in Saudi Arabia but throughout the entire Islamic world as a pious man dedicated to his people and his religion. His support for philanthropic causes not only in the Kingdom but in the broader Islamic and developing worlds was respected and emulated as a model for helping the needy.
In 1976, the eight sons of the late King Faisal honored their father's memory by establishing the King Faisal Foundation as a way of continuing his philanthropic activities. Following an in-depth study of existing international charitable organizations, the foundation was set up to promote the principles of philanthropy that are firmly rooted in Islamic teachings and Arab traditions in a manner that would be the most effective in modern societies. An initial endowment of one billion Saudi riyals (266.6 million U.S. dollars) was provided by King Faisal's estate, his sons, other members of the royal family and private donors to launch the foundation.
From the outset, the foundation sought to achieve three primary goals. First, instead of providing handouts that would soon be exhausted, it would provide assistance to less-fortunate communities in such a way as to make them more self-sufficient, thereby raising their standard of living. Second, it would make academic and health facilities available to those who might otherwise not have such access. Third, it would promote cultural and academic programs.
Over the past two decades, the foundation has become an internationally recognized philanthropic organization, funding hundreds of projects in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. The scope of the organization's philanthropic activities is impressive. As examples, it has funded hospitals and clinics in Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, the occupied West Bank and Sudan; built schools and colleges for girls as well as boys in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Benin, Mali, the Philippines and Sri Lanka; dug wells and built irrigation networks in Gambia and Tanzania; financed land reclamation in Kenya; set up orphanages and children's shelters in India; established a center for disabled children in Saudi Arabia; purchased scientific equipment for schools in Indonesia; established a cultural center in Senegal; funded libraries in Sierra Leone, Thailand and Mauritania; paid for repairs to historical buildings in Turkey; funded the establishment of a transportation project in Egypt; and established Islamic centers and institutes for Islamic and Arabic studies in Chad, Morocco, Nigeria, the Comoros, the Ivory Coast, Ghana, the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.
While most of its philanthropic projects are in the developing world, the foundation also provides grants for medical research and scientific studies in the United States and Europe. It has funded basic and clinical research in human malignant lymphoma at the University of Texas in Houston, studies to find cures for cancer at the Association for Medical Research and Scientific Collaboration in Geneva, and a project to develop a malaria vaccine at the University of Hawaii. In a further effort to promote academic studies, it has also funded a Middle East and North African Studies center at Fordham University in New York.
The foundation's commitment to investments that could reap long-term benefit for developing countries is also reflected in the scholarships it provides to outstanding students from Asian and African countries to allow them to pursue advanced degrees in the world's leading universities. In return, the foundation asks that upon completing their studies, recipients of grants return to their home countries to put their knowledge to work.
As well as generous disbursements for philanthropic and educational projects, the foundation operates its own educational and scientific facilities to promote Islamic, Arabic and scientific studies.
One such facility is the King Faisal School, which was established in 1991 as a nonprofit educational institution dedicated to blending Islamic and traditional values with modern educational techniques and facilities. Located in Riyadh's Diplomatic Quarter, the school has set high academic standards for its 800 students in kindergarten through high school. In addition to the Ministry of Education curriculum, the school teaches English as a second language and emphasizes extracurricular activities ranging from sports to calligraphy.
Another is the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies. Located at the foundation's headquarters in Riyadh, the center's primary function is to promote scientific research and studies related to Islam and an understanding of Islamic heritage. It does so through its vast library and database, as well as by organizing lectures and conferences, translating scientific and literary works and making them available to researchers throughout the world. The center has published dictionaries of Islamic technical and literary terms and an Islamic educational encyclopedia.
The center also operates a library and database with 140,000 book titles and 3,500 periodicals. Open to the public, it facilitates research conducted by students and scholars both on site as well as throughout the world. It also has an audiovisual section containing a collection of 12,000 audio and video tapes and films about Islam and Arab culture.
The center's manuscript department performs a vital service by having collected more than 20,000 microfilm copies of manuscripts as well as some 24,000 original handwritten documents and books, some dating back more than 1,200 years. These manuscripts and books are available on microfilm to researchers via fax and e-mail. The center also preserves and restores old manuscripts and books and makes copies of them available to the public.
Another means by which the foundation promotes a respect for knowledge and the pursuit of it is the King Faisal International Prize. First awarded in 1979, the prestigious prize is designed to reward excellence in the five fields of Service to Islam, Islamic Studies, Arabic Literature, Medicine, and Science. So far, 132 scholars from 35 countries have been awarded the prize, which includes a cash award of 750,000 Saudi riyals (200,000 U.S. dollars), a certificate containing an abstract of the winning work and a 200-gram, 22-carat gold medallion.
What makes the King Faisal Foundation unique is not only its noble goals, but also the fact that it is virtually self-reliant and does not turn to outside sources for funds. From the outset, the foundation was set up to be self-financing, funding its various philanthropic activities by managing its investments in a way that would generate sufficient income to cover its operating expenses, while at the same time contributing to society by creating jobs as well as revenue. The Al-Faisaliah Complex is the latest such project. Built on 13.6 acres of land located next to the foundation's headquarters in Riyadh, the project incorporates a 5-star hotel, a banquet hall/conference center, apartments, a retail mall and an office tower rising 872 feet. Scheduled to be completed next year, the project will generate revenue to help finance the foundation's diverse philanthropic activities worldwide.