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Six-year-old boy receives life-saving gene therapy at UAE hospital


Medcare Women & Children Hospital, which has successfully treated over 120 patients with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) from across the world, has now introduced a new ground-breaking treatment in the UAE for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). Cinar Atar, a six-year-old boy from Turkey, suffering from this genetic condition has been successfully treated with the novel gene therapy.  

DMD is the most common form of muscular dystrophy, a rare genetic disorder that causes skeletal and cardiac muscle weakening in predominantly boys, causing severe disability and premature death if not treated properly. It is a rare muscle disorder affecting approximately 1 in 3,500-5000 male live births worldwide.[1]

Cinar’s parents discovered his symptoms during a normal routine health checkup in Turkey when he was four years old. His leg muscles were weaker, prompting additional examinations and genetic testing to confirm the diagnosis of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD).

Dr. Vivek Mundada, Consultant Paediatric Neurologist at Medcare Women and Children Hospital, described the medical condition as progressive muscle degeneration and weakness. “It is caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene, which is required for muscle integrity. Muscle cells get injured and weaker over time in the absence of dystrophin. DMD usually becomes apparent when boys start walking at approximately around 15-17 months. Cinar’s lack of dystrophin resulted in considerable muscle underdevelopment, notably in his legs, severely limiting his activities like running and climbing”.

“The new gene therapy, which is only administered once, has shown promise in over 400 patients worldwide. However, there are limited medical facilities around the world that offer this treatment”. he added.

At present, the UAE, USA, and recently added in the list, Qatar, are the only countries that provide gene therapy for DMD. With no treatment options available in Turkey, Cinar’s parents turned to physiotherapy and swimming to support his muscle development. These measures, though helpful, were insufficient to combat the progression of the condition.

Recalling their experience at the time, the boy’s parents shared, “We were devastated by Cinar’s diagnosis and sought every possible way to help him. Volunteers and charities suggested that we seek treatment in Dubai at the Medcare Women and Children Hospital as it was the only private hospital outside the US offering the treatment our child needed to be able to lead a full life.”

Families with children like Cinar who are unable to travel to the US often seek out medical facilities like Medcare Women and Children Hospital as a ray of hope, and it is in these situations that Dr. Vivek and his multidisciplinary team are called upon to help.  “Our method comprised a complete evaluation and infusion of the medication, a prescription gene therapy that is one of the world’s most expensive life-saving treatment. The treatment is designed to strengthen muscles by delivering a shortened version of the dystrophin gene, known as micro-dystrophin which eventually produces smaller but functional dystrophin protein. Following the infusion, we carried out a comprehensive post-infusion monitoring and observation for five to eight weeks, during which the child came in for weekly blood tests, physiotherapy and rehabilitation. This multidisciplinary effort was crucial in ensuring the best possible outcome for Cinar,” he said.

Commenting on the importance of continuum of care in cases like Cinar’s, Dr. Vivek said, “At Medcare Women and Children Hospital, we ensure that our patients receive comprehensive support from the moment they arrive until they return home. Through facilities like teleMEDCARE, our telemedicine platform, we offer real-time monitoring and continuous care post-infusion and discharge. This allows us to track the patient’s progress closely, provide necessary medical advice, and address any concerns promptly.

“This type of end-to-end patient experience ensures that patients like Cinar receive the best care possible even after they leave the hospital. Our physiotherapists also work with parents, guiding them on how to support their child’s rehabilitation journey once they return home. This holistic approach ensures that our patients have the best chance at a full recovery and a better quality of life,” he further elaborated.

Expressing their gratitude, the boy’s parents said, “We are immensely grateful for the health of our child and the expertise of Dr. Vivek and the medical team. Their commitment and expertise have given our son a new lease of life.”

[1] https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/duchenne-muscular-dystrophy/

Al Islami launches new Heat & Eat product ‘Original Tempura Nuggets’

Al Islami Foods, a UAE pioneer in wholesome halal poultry, meat & snacking food products and awarded top Halal Food Brand in the OIC countries, has now launched the fully cooked ‘Original Tempura Nuggets’ redefining convenience and nutrition. A favourite with children, Original Tempura Nuggets extend the brand’s Heat & Eat range and offer a healthy snack option without compromising on health as it is air fryer friendly and rich in good proteins.

Parents can feel confident in providing these nuggets to their children, knowing that Al Islami products are made from real halal meat and contain no added hormones. Additionally, the convenience of heating and eating makes ‘Original Tempura Nuggets’ the best choice for busy households and an easy option for children.

The latest launch adds to the wide range of frozen meat and snack products, ranging from frozen raw and semi-cooked meat, burgers, breaded products and beef snacks to vegetables and seafood offering international flavours. Al Islami’s existing fully cooked products include the entire Zing range (Zing fillet, Zing strips, Zing popcorn and Zing nuggets – both spicy and non-spicy), fully cooked Seekh kebabs and franks. The introduction of the Original Tempura Nuggets continues this tradition and offers a delicious and nutritious option for families.

The Original Tempura Nugget, like all Al Islami processed meat products, is “real halal” product, made from ‘hand slaughtered and never-stunned’ chicken. The company has focused on creating the perfect flavour with careful attention to quality and taste.

Commenting on the launch, Zubair Ahmad, Marketing and International Sales Director of Al Islami Foods said: “Our range of processed foods is carefully prepared to offer unrivalled convenience without compromising on taste or nutritional value. These products are ideally suited to the fast-paced lifestyles of modern households and are set to transform the way people snack and enjoy their meals.” A leader in Halal Foods for five decades, Al Islami Foods is an Emirati brand with an unrivalled global presence that embodies the principles of quality and innovation. The brand has been recognised as one of the top halal brands globally, securing a coveted position among the Top 5 Halal Products Companies in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in 2023, and was awarded the prestigious title of iHalal Brand of the Year in 2021.

Sheikh Rashid bin Hamdan inaugurates Medcare’s flagship Royal Specialty Hospital

His Highness Sheikh Rashid Bin Hamdan Al Maktoum inaugurated the Medcare Royal Speciality Hospital in Al Qusais today. He was joined by Ms. Alisha Moopen, Managing Director, and Group CEO of Aster DM Healthcare GCC; Dr. Shanila Laiju, Group CEO of Medcare Hospitals and Medical Centres; and esteemed dignitaries from the government, ministries, health authorities, VIPs, and staff from the healthcare group. Spanning 335,000 square feet, this modern tertiary care hospital aims to serve the healthcare needs of both local and international patients, aligning with Medcare’s commitment to UAE’s Vision 2031, which aspires to position the country among the top 10 globally for quality healthcare.

HH Sheikh Rashid Bin Hamdan Al Maktoum commented, “Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the healthcare sector has made tremendous progress over the last few decades, driven by his vision for Dubai to have one of the best healthcare sectors in the world. With world-class healthcare institutions bringing global talent and expertise to serve the evolving needs of the regional population, we are glad to present Medcare Royal Specialty Hospital to the citizens of the world.”

Dr. Azad Moopen, Founder Chairman of Aster DM Healthcare, added, “With the evolving demographics in the UAE, there is an increasing demand for specialized and personalized care among the affluent population. The strategic location, offering easy connectivity to the MENA region and Africa for over a billion people, is making Dubai an emerging destination for medical tourism. The new Medcare Royal Hospital, situated close to Dubai International Airport and premium residential communities, will help meet this growing demand. We will soon establish five Centres of Excellence (CoEs) in Cardiology, Neurology, Oncology, Gastroenterology, and Nephrology which will go a long way to offer the most advanced world-class care and access to our best doctors.”

Ms. Alisha Moopen, Managing Director and Group CEO, Aster DM Healthcare GCC stated, “Taking off on our promise We’ll Treat You Well, we have designed Medcare Royal to provide a holistic, multi-sensory healing experience. We believe that it is when you are unwell that you need to be pampered – a chef who understands your idea of comfort food, a musician who plays to heal, a perfumer who creates fragrances that soothe you, a floral designer who places bright, colourful smiles in your room every day, a housekeeper who will use only the finest linen for you to rest on, and most importantly, a team of outstanding, empathetic doctors and nurses. Curating the right environment will go a long way to help patients heal faster and ensure better outcomes in more ways than one.”

The Medcare Royal Hospital, strategically located near the bustling Dubai International Airport, is the fourth Medcare Hospital in Dubai and the fifth in the UAE, further enhancing Medcare’s existing network of healthcare facilities including 18 premium Medcare Medical Centres. The hospital has opened with 83 doctors bringing in international experience from the Western, South-Asian, and Arab world, alongside Emirati medical specialists. It currently offers Cardiac Sciences, Neurosciences, Gynecology & Obstetrics, Internal Medicine, Endocrinology, Pulmonology & Sleep Lab, Rheumatology, Nephrology & Dialysis Unit, Paediatrics, Neonatology, Oncology, Psychiatry, Geriatrics, ENT & Skull Base, Dermatology & Aesthetics, Orthopaedics, Urology, Gastroenterology& Endoscopy Unit, Dentistry, General Surgery, Vascular Surgery, Bariatric Surgery, Plastic Surgery, Anaesthesiology, Home Care, Emergency Care, Radiology, Physiotherapy & Rehabilitation. The hospital will soon introduce quaternary care services such as organ transplantation, radiation oncology, and robotic surgery. This will be Aster DM Healthcare’s 10th hospital in UAE, in addition to 103 clinics and 258 pharmacies.

Dr. Shanila Laiju, Group CEO, Medcare Hospitals & Medical Centre remarked, “Our mission at Medcare Royal Speciality Hospital extends beyond the delivery of world-class medical care. We are combining top-notch clinical excellence with the best-in-class service experience, an unparalleled blend which will provide the best healing experience to every patient. As our flagship hospital, Medcare Royal is set to revolutionize healthcare delivery in the region.”

Medcare is also enhancing healthcare provision at the new hospital through extensive digitalization, facilitating seamless, accessible, and flexible care and patient management. This includes features like instant appointment booking through various digital channels, as well as allowing patients to manage their appointments instantly from their smartphones. TELEMEDCARE services offer remote consultations with doctors from the comfort of patients’ homes. Furthermore, the hospital implements AI-enabled diagnostics and a real-time disease management program to monitor lifestyle diseases effectively. The continuum of care platform fosters post-discharge patient engagement, enabling ongoing support and communication.

Moreover, the hospital integrates advanced healthcare systems with premium hospitality experiences, aimed at enhancing the inpatient room experience. The facility takes a holistic approach to well-being that includes digital innovations catering to non-medical needs, a gourmet fine dining experience, signature aromatherapy, and luxury rooms equipped with modern amenities. The hospital will also provide well-trained, certified service professionals to patients, ensuring they receive a truly royal experience.

From the Medcare network, two hospitals have been featured in the Newsweek World’s Best Hospital list for 2024. Medcare Hospital in Al Safa, Dubai, is ranked No. 34 in the UAE, while Medcare Women & Children Hospital on Sheikh Zayed Road has received a special mention for women and childcare.

Dream big, build boldly: Hendrik Van Der Ham’s visionary approach to business

Hendrik Van Der Ham is not just a seasoned entrepreneur but a visionary who sees the potential for profound connection in every ALUMINIUM STRUCTURE and concrete slab. As the Founder OF BRIDGES2000 AND FOUNDER, President, and Chairman of SEVENTH Worldwide, Van Der Ham has dedicated over a decade abroad, enriching his global perspective, which he now channels into pioneering projects that defy traditional business boundaries.

From his early days, Van Der Ham was captivated by the potential and symbolism of bridges.

“I’ve always been drawn to the magic of bridges. They’re more than just aluminium, steel, and concrete; they’re symbols of connection, possibility, and a way to reach what seems unreachable,” he explains with Dubai Vibes Magazine.

This early fascination laid the groundwork for Bridges 2000, which goes beyond constructing physical bridges to fostering meaningful collaborations and connections.

Bridges 2000 has been instrumental in projects that span from the towering peaks of the Himalayas to bustling urban centers, focusing on creating safe and sustainable passages.

“At Bridges 2000, it wasn’t just about creating safe passage, but about fostering collaboration and building something bigger than ourselves,” Van Der Ham shares.

This ethos is vividly illustrated in projects like the bridge through the Himalayas, which, beyond its engineering feat, provided children with a safe passage to education, fundamentally changing their lives and communities.

However, Van Der Ham’s vision extends beyond physical infrastructures to a broader commitment to sustainability and community, embodied by his latest venture, SEVENTH Worldwide.

“Seventh feels deeply personal. It’s a culmination of those core values—connection, possibility, and not just leaving a positive mark but weaving together a deep-seated commitment to sustainability,” he states.

SEVENTH aims to revolutionize how communities live, integrating respect for the planet with high-quality, sustainable living experiences.

Innovation lies at the heart of Van Der Ham’s business philosophy. “Innovation, for me, isn’t just about chasing the next big thing. It’s about staying true to a core belief—that we can build a better future TOGETHER,” he remarks.

This belief motivates him to continuously look at the world with fresh eyes and adapt his businesses in response to the rapidly changing global environment, particularly the critical challenges posed by climate change.

The key to staying innovative in a fast-evolving business landscape involves embracing both small achievements and their significant impacts.

“Sometimes we do not see the impact from afar of keeping safe, but this is actually the most important impact,” he states, reflecting on the broad-reaching effects of his projects. Through Bridges 2000, Van Der Ham has contributed to safety and connectivity in areas most would consider unreachable.

One of Van Der Ham’s significant successes WOULD BE the development of SEVENTH in Dubai, a city known for its ambitious architectural and developmental projects.

“Dubai AND ITS RULER BELIEVES IN GOOD OR EVEN EXCELLENT GOVERNANCE AND SO IT thrives on pushing PEOPLES boundaries, and that’s why I believe SEVENTH has a place there. We’re not building upwards; we’re building outwards, in harmony with the water WHICH IS A CONNECTOR OF LIFE,” he explains.

SEVENTH in Dubai WOULD BE REPRESENTING a new kind of ambition—one that builds a legacy for future generations by integrating sustainable practices seamlessly into daily life.

When facing challenges and setbacks, Van Der Ham ADOPTED AND STILL adopts a mindset geared towards innovation and growth.

“The biggest setbacks can often be the seeds of the greatest innovations,” he asserts. This perspective has helped him and his team at SEVENTH overcome countless technical and logistical hurdles, turning each challenge into an opportunity for creative problem-solving and innovation.

For aspiring entrepreneurs, Van Der Ham offers advice that blends practicality with inspiration.

“Don’t be afraid to dream big. Find your purpose and embrace the journey,” he advises, “FOR ONLY DREAMERS ARE ABOUT TO CHANGE THE WORLD”.

He stresses the importance of building connections and staying true to one’s vision, even in the face of adversity. His advice to bridge the gaps in knowledge, experience, and understanding underscores his belief in the power of collective action and collaboration.

Orlando Alforte Gayeta: Pioneering Marketing Excellence Across Media Landscapes in the Middle East

Orlando Alforte Gayeta is a seasoned marketing professional with a diverse background in media and broadcasting. With nearly eleven years of experience in the Middle East, he has held significant roles such as Sales and Marketing Manager for a renowned newspaper before transitioning into his current position as Marketing Manager at The Global Filipino Magazine. Orlando’s dedication and excellence in his work have been recognized through multiple awards, including Best Employee of the Year. Beyond his primary role, he remains engaged in broadcasting and influencing, utilizing his platform to make a positive impact. Additionally, his involvement in community service reflects his commitment to giving back. As a holder of a golden visa, Orlando’s contributions to his industry and community are invaluable.

Holistic Healing Revolution: Redefining Healthcare Beyond Pharmaceuticals

Dr. Hadeel Ismail, a clinical pharmacist turned holistic healer, embodies a journey of transformation and empowerment. With roots in the UAE and experiences spanning the UK and Egypt, her career trajectory reflects a fusion of traditional pharmaceutical practices and alternative healing modalities.

As the Head of Sales and Marketing at a prominent pharmaceutical company, she doesn’t just dispense medicines; she facilitates journeys of inner healing and self-discovery.

“Beyond pharmaceuticals, I delved into meditation, energy healing, crystal therapy, and life

coaching,” Dr. Ismail shares. “My passion lies in empowering souls to reconnect with their essence.”

Dr. Ismail’s transition from traditional pharmacy to holistic healing wasn’t instantaneous. For years, her white coat symbolized her commitment to healing, but her heart yearned for deeper connections. Energy healing, meditation, and crystal therapy became her tools for banishing not only physical ailments but also the shadows that weighed on souls—the grief, sorrow, and negativity.

Today, as a life coach, Dr. Ismail extends her healing energy, helping people heal from within. “Because healing isn’t just about pills; it’s about igniting the spirit,” she emphasizes.

Over the years, Dr. Ismail’s personal philosophy has evolved, shaped by everyday encounters and profound experiences. “I learned that grit leads to resilience, and vulnerability connects us,” she


One particular lesson stands out: life isn’t a binary choice. “By trusting my inner compass, I

discovered alternative routes,” Dr. Ismail explains. “Exploring unconventional options and listening to intuition led me to fulfillment beyond what I imagined.”

To maintain alignment with her purpose and values, Dr. Ismail practices self-reflection, mindfulness, and continuous learning. “Meaning isn’t a fixed destination; it’s a dynamic journey,” she emphasizes.

Balancing work, family, and personal pursuits while staying true to her values is essential for Dr. Ismail’s overall well-being. Clear priorities, effective communication, and self-care are among her strategies for achieving balance.

Beyond her professional endeavors, Dr. Ismail is deeply involved in activities that benefit others. From volunteering to mentoring and organizing community workshops, she strives to make a positive impact in her community.

Dubai, Dr. Ismail’s home and a vibrant expat city, has welcomed her with open arms. Its multicultural fabric, energy, resilience, and pursuit of excellence inspire her journey.

Looking toward the future, Dr. Ismail dreams of a tapestry woven with purpose, love, and impact. For her family, she envisions harmony, health, and generosity. Personally, she seeks lifelong learning, creativity, and empowering others through advocacy.

For those aspiring to success, Dr. Ismail offers timeless advice: clarity of purpose, goal-setting,

continuous learning, hard work, networking, resilience, and self-care. “Success isn’t a destination; it’s the rhythm of your journey,” she reminds us.

Kareem Afghani: Social Media Sensation Afghan National Makes Waves in UAE’s Influencer Scene

Within the rich cultural mosaic of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kareem Afghani’s odyssey embodies the spirit of perseverance and achievement. Born Karimullah Abdul Ghani in Afghanistan on June 20, 1996, Kareem’s journey from a small-town dreamer to a celebrated influencer in Dubai is a narrative of unwavering determination and relentless pursuit of success.

As a child, Kareem harbored big dreams of making a name for himself on the grand stage of life. “I wanted to be something in the future that people would always remember me for,” he recalls,

reflecting on the aspirations that fueled his journey. It was this innate drive that propelled Kareem to pursue his dreams with unwavering zeal.

Arriving in the UAE, Kareem found himself drawn to the world of modelling, captivated by the glitz and glamour of the fashion industry. He quickly made a name for himself, gracing the runways of Dubai’s most prestigious fashion events and catching the eye of renowned brands. However, it was

his foray into social media that truly transformed his trajectory.

Embracing platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube, Kareem discovered a new avenue to showcase his talent and connect with audiences on a deeper level. “I enjoy being on social media platforms,” Kareem shares, highlighting the joy of forging meaningful connections and exploring diverse cultures through his online presence.

Through his captivating content and magnetic personality, Kareem garnered a legion of followers, cementing his status as one of Dubai’s top influencers. From brand collaborations to acting gigs, Kareem’s influence transcended the digital realm, earning him accolades and opportunities beyond his wildest dreams.

Reflecting on his journey, Kareem attributes his success to a steadfast commitment to his craft and an unwavering belief in himself. “People come and go, but positivity and perseverance are key,” he

remarks, underscoring the importance of resilience in the face of adversity.

Despite his skyrocketing fame, Kareem remains grounded, finding solace in his family and the values instilled in him from a young age. “Family comes first,” he affirms, cherishing the support and love that have been constants throughout his journey.

Dubai, with its kaleidoscope of cultures and endless possibilities, holds a special place in Kareem’s heart. “One of the Best Cities in the world,” he exclaims, expressing gratitude for the opportunities and experiences that have shaped his growth and success.

Looking ahead, Kareem’s dreams know no bounds. With a fervent desire to continue pushing

boundaries and inspiring others, he remains steadfast in his pursuit of greatness. “Inshallah, I will achieve more,” he declares, his eyes set on the horizon of possibility.

In parting words of wisdom, Kareem offers a beacon of hope to aspiring individuals chasing their dreams. “Nothing is impossible,” he reassures, his journey serving as a testament to the

transformative power of perseverance and passion.

Empowering Change: Florence Dalupang-Bueno Advocates for Diversity And Inclusion

Florence Dalupang-Bueno, a seasoned HR Director at SEE Engineering in the Sustainable City, Dubai, UAE, stands as a beacon of excellence in her field. Recently recognized as an awardee of the Emirates Finest Professional Awards, Florence graciously shares her insights and experiences, offering a glimpse into her remarkable journey.

When asked about her initial reaction to the accolade, Florence expresses a mix of emotions: “Being selected for such an award has given me a feeling of excitement, pride, validation, and gratitude.” Her journey, marked by dedication and perseverance, has led her to this significant milestone in her career. Reflecting on her achievements, she emphasizes the importance of recognizing the support received along the way.

Florence’s professional journey is punctuated by key milestones, each contributing to her growth as an HR professional. From her early career roles in HR administration to her strategic leadership as an HR Director, Florence’s trajectory underscores her commitment to continuous learning and development.

What sets Florence apart is her unwavering commitment to leadership and social impact. She attributes her selection as an awardee to her strong leadership qualities and her dedication to creating a positive workplace culture. Moreover, Florence’s initiatives extend beyond the workplace, making a meaningful impact on the community through her advocacy for diversity and inclusion.

Looking ahead, Florence envisions leveraging her award to further her professional goals and make a positive impact in her community and industry. She plans to strengthen her network, enhance her skills, and amplify her voice as a thought leader in HR. Additionally, Florence remains deeply committed to mentoring aspiring professionals and advocating for the empowerment of women.

For aspiring professionals, Florence offers invaluable advice: prioritize continuous learning, develop a diverse skill set, and cultivate strong relationships. Upholding ethical standards and embracing technology are also essential in navigating the evolving landscape of HR.

Florence’s upcoming projects and initiatives underscore her unwavering commitment to empowering others. From speaking engagements to receiving prestigious awards, Florence remains dedicated to her mission of making a positive difference in the world.

Fashion Designer Revolutionizes Ghana’s Industry with Sustainable Practices

Embracing Ghana’s rich cultural heritage, Grace Asibi Asibrele leads the charge for sustainable fashion in the region. At 42 years old, she’s not just a fashion designer; she’s a relentless advocate for sustainable and ethical practices within the industry. Grace, the founder of Einstein Royalty Company Limited, has carved her path by empowering local artisans, promoting eco-friendly fashion, and advocating for social change.

Grace’s journey into advocacy began with a simple yet profound realization: the fashion industry in Ghana needed a transformation. “My advocacy work began by promoting sustainable and ethical practices within the fashion industry in Ghana,” Grace shares. Through her efforts, she has not only championed eco-conscious fashion but has also become a catalyst for societal change. “One of my main concerns is to empower young women and create job opportunities for the people in the Northern Region of Ghana,” she emphasizes.

Witnessing the rich cultural heritage of Ghana served as a springboard for Grace’s advocacy. “The passion to preserve our traditions and environment serves as a constant motivation in my advocacy efforts,” she explains. Her commitment to preserving Ghana’s cultural legacy intertwines seamlessly with her dedication to sustainable fashion.

However, Grace’s journey has been marked by challenges. Overcoming resistance to change within the fashion industry was no small feat. “Convincing stakeholders to adopt sustainable practices has been challenging,” Grace admits. Yet, her perseverance has yielded triumphs. “The triumph lies in witnessing the growing acceptance and integration of eco-conscious fashion principles,” she asserts.

Central to Grace’s success is her collaborative spirit. By forging partnerships with local NGOs, educational institutions, international organizations, and the government of Ghana, she has amplified her impact. “Collaboration has been pivotal,” Grace states. Through these partnerships, she has expanded her reach and effectiveness in spreading awareness about sustainable fashion practices.

Engagement with the community is at the heart of Grace’s advocacy. Through workshops, fashion shows, community events, and social media platforms, she fosters dialogue and garners support for sustainable fashion. “I have been able to engage with people directly,” Grace remarks, highlighting the importance of grassroots involvement in effecting change.

Grace’s advocacy journey has been transformative on a personal level as well. “My advocacy work has deepened my understanding of the fashion industry’s impact on communities and the environment,” she reflects. It has instilled in her a profound sense of responsibility and mindfulness, contributing significantly to her personal growth.

Looking ahead, Grace envisions a legacy of a thriving, sustainable fashion industry in Ghana. “My long-term goals include establishing educational programs and sustainable fashion hubs,” she shares. Additionally, she plans to expand her product line to include interior décor, further showcasing the rich culture of Africa.

Grace draws inspiration from iconic figures like Stella McCartney and organizations like Fashion Revolution. “Their commitment to sustainable and ethical fashion serves as a guiding light for my work,” she acknowledges. To aspiring advocates, Grace offers sage advice: “Embrace collaboration, stay persistent, and educate yourselves continuously.”

Balancing advocacy work with personal and professional responsibilities requires effective time management and delegation, according to Grace. “Prioritizing tasks ensures a harmonious integration of all aspects of life,” she advises.

Grace’s achievements speak volumes about her dedication and impact. From launching sustainable fashion collections to receiving media recognition and accolades like being crowned “GROUND BREAKER OF THE YEAR 2023,” her journey is one of resilience and success.

Looking to the future, Grace is excited about upcoming projects that involve creating platforms for emerging sustainable designers and expanding educational initiatives on ethical fashion practices. Her relentless advocacy efforts continue, fueled by a desire to create lasting change.

In measuring her impact, Grace focuses on tangible outcomes such as increased adoption of sustainable practices by fashion businesses and positive changes in consumer behavior. “Our products are 100 percent recyclable,” she proudly declares, emphasizing her commitment to environmental sustainability.

Dubai’s Afford’aCup Restaurant: A Culinary Haven for Authentic Filipino Cuisine


Surrounded by Dubai’s dynamic culinary landscape, where a fusion of flavors reigns, Afford’aCup Restaurant stands as a beacon of genuine Filipino culinary traditions. Founded in September 2022 by the dynamic quartet of Cris Sotto, Ramona Mariano-Sotto, Aiza Mariano, and Jovito Mariano, Afford’aCup began as a modest kiosk with a big dream: to bring the rich and flavorful Kapampangan cuisine to the vibrant city of Dubai.

Fast forward three years, and Afford’aCup has not only flourished but also earned its place among the Emirates Top 100 Entrepreneurs. With two thriving branches in Manila Building Al Satwa and Muraqqabat Kabayan Night Market, and the anticipation of a new branch opening in Al Nahda Dubai, the restaurant has become a household name within the Filipino community.

“Our aim is to provide a taste of home for our fellow kababayans here in the UAE,” shares Cris Sotto, one of the passionate owners of Afford’aCup. “Seeing the smiles on their faces as they savor our dishes is what drives us every day.”

Afford’aCup’s success stems from its commitment to quality, innovation, and a deep-rooted passion for Filipino cuisine. Despite facing stiff competition in Dubai’s diverse food scene, the restaurant has carved a niche for itself by offering traditional Filipino dishes with a modern twist.

“We wanted to challenge the perception of Filipino cuisine as merely ‘cheap’ or ‘fast’ food,” explains Ramona Mariano-Sotto. “Our goal was to elevate these dishes and showcase the depth and richness of Filipino cooking.”

Indeed, Afford’aCup has become synonymous with excellence in both food and service. The restaurant’s dedication to innovation and technology has allowed it to stay ahead of the curve, constantly adapting to meet the evolving demands of its customers.

“Our commitment to staying at the forefront of our industry has solidified our reputation as a leader in the Filipino food scene in Dubai,” says Aiza Mariano proudly.

However, the journey to success has not been without its challenges. Like many entrepreneurs, the owners of Afford’aCup have faced financial obstacles along the way. Yet, their resilience and determination have seen them through the toughest of times.

“Facing financial challenges is inevitable for any entrepreneur,” acknowledges Jovito Mariano. “But with proper planning, determination, and perseverance, they can be overcome.”

Through hard work and sheer passion, Afford’aCup has achieved numerous milestones, with perhaps the most significant being the sense of community it has fostered among Filipinos in the UAE.

“It brings us so much joy to see the smiling faces of our fellow Filipinos as they enjoy the dishes that remind them of the flavors and comfort of our beloved Philippines,” shares the team.

As they reflect on their entrepreneurial journey, the owners of Afford’aCup offer invaluable advice to aspiring entrepreneurs.

“Don’t let fear of failure hold you back,” advises Cris Sotto. “Embrace failure and learn from it. Building a business takes time and perseverance, but it’s important to stay determined and keep pushing forward.”