Celebrating the Achievements of University of Sunderland Alumni: Jordanian Graduates Bag Prestigious Awards
University of Sunderland graduates Dana Darwish (left) and Abedalrahman Alzghoul at the awards ceremony with Aizhan Omar

Two inspirational University of Sunderland business graduates from Jordan have bagged prizes at this year’s prestigious British Council Study UK Alumni Awards.

The Alumni Awards, which took place in Jordan (Wednesday 15 February), celebrate the outstanding achievements of international alumni and showcase the impact and value of a UK higher education. Award winners and finalists are leaders in their field and have used their experience of studying at a UK university to make a positive contribution to their communities, professions and countries.

The Business and Innovation Award was presented to Sunderland MBA graduate Abedalrahman Alzghoul for his innovative project – Bread for Education.

The initiative, founded in 2013 by Abedalrahman, takes bread leftovers from hotels, restaurants and schools, and turns it into healthy feed for livestock sold to farmers and traders. The money from the dry bread is then used to provide scholarships for underprivileged students and refugees in Jordan.

In 2018, Abedalrahman was presented with an international award by the King of Dubai – His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum – as part of his global initiatives to reward and honour outstanding entrepreneurs in the region.

Abedalrahman was given support to get his initiative up and running by King Abdullah II of Jordan’s Fund for Development programme. In 2017, he received one of Jordan’s highest civilian awards, a Royal Medal for Excellence by His Majesty King Abdullah II. Other awards include the Best Entrepreneurial Award by the International Youth Organisation, the Volunteer and Humanitarian Initiatives Award for Youth in Kuwait and the Arab Creativity Award in the Community Sector in Abu Dhabi.

Bread for Education was also chosen as a success story in the global campaign for education launched by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in the United States.

In 2017, Abedalrahman turned his initiative into a not-for-profit organisation under the name of ‘Recycling for Education’, which now includes three branches: Bread for Education, Paper for Education, and Plastic for Education, expanding its work to Kuwait, Palestine and Morocco.

On his latest award win, Abedalrahman, who graduated from the University of Sunderland with a Master of Business Administration (Enterprise and Innovation) degree in 2018, said:

“I am happy to receive the award in the category of Business and Innovation for 2023 in recognition of my previous and current work achievements in Jordan and the United Kingdom with the support of my Bread for Education project.

“My experience at the University of Sunderland was pivotal in the success of my work and the support I have received from academics in terms of trading advice has been immeasurable.

University of Sunderland graduates Dana Darwish (left) and Abedalrahman Alzghoul at the awards ceremony with Aizhan Omar
the University representative in Jordan / Abedalrahman Alzghoul with his award

“I would like to encourage all current and future students to follow their dreams.”

Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Sunderland Karen Wharton was MBA Programme Leader during Abedalrahman’s studies.

She said: “Abedalrahman was a student on the MBA when Bread for Education was in its inception, and we are very proud to see this recognition for his innovation. He has thoroughly demonstrated an ability to successfully pioneer a very rewarding and sustainable business venture. Very well deserved!”

Fellow Sunderland MBA graduate Dana Darwish was presented with the Social Action Award.

Dana has a multidimensional career – she is a radio presenter on the number one English radio station in Jordan, Play 99.5, hosting a prime-time show focusing on youth and local talent, while leading the PR and communication for The Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship’s Jordan Source program by the World Bank, which seeks to connect businesses, investors, and entrepreneurs from across the globe with the resources they need to grow.

But Dana’s big passion is her mental health initiative – Choose Kind – which she created to raise awareness of the impact of cyberbullying and the effect online content can have on our mental wellbeing.

The programme teaches young people that choosing to be kind is the real sign of strength and that their mental health should always be a priority. Choose Kind aims to educate, empower and drive policy that works towards creating a safer place for children and young people online.

Since launching in 2019, Choose Kind has created a community of supporters and advocates through youth leadership programme Love Jo, and it has continued to grow and expand.

Dana created the first Choose Kind filter which launched in October 2021 on World Mental Health Day with a message that the person using it cares about their friend’s mental health. The filter has been used more than 2,000 times and created over a quarter of a million impressions online.

Choose Kind – under Love Jo – has formed a partnership with Mental Health Hub, the largest mental health clinic in Jordan, where Dr Falah Al Tamimi and his team have volunteered to grow the programme.

Since the launch of its ambassador programme in 2019, Choose Kind is training 16 university students to become positive and informed influential advocates for mental health. On World Mental Health Day last year, Dana used her radio show to raise awareness of Choose Kind by hosting international guests such as Dr Khaled Ghattas and Her Highness Princess Basma Al Saed of Oman.

Choose Kind hosted its first school activity this year, talking to more than 60 pupils at Kingston School in Jordan about the importance of mental health and wellbeing. There are also plans to launch an in-school ambassador programme this year, training pupils to be a first point of contact for their communities when it comes to mental wellbeing and mental health.

Dana, who graduated with a Master in Business Administration degree from the University of Sunderland’s London Campus in 2018, said: “Having Choose Kind recognised for its efforts in spreading awareness about mental health is a massive honour for us.

“I am so thankful for the opportunities my education and community have brought me and I believe any step towards a safer, inclusive, and kinder world is a win for everyone.”

Tawfiq Elahi, Senior Lecturer in Postgraduate Business at the University of Sunderland in London, said: “I feel extremely proud to see all the exciting engagements of Dana, starting from being a radio presenter, a communication lead for government ministry or her initiative around raising mental health awareness for children and young people. I found there is a common thread in what she is doing – her intent to create a bigger impact on the wider society and her passion for work.

“Dana’s journey is inspirational for today’s business academics, practitioners and our current business management students.”

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