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Pretoria: Dr. Imtiaz Ismail Sooliman, an Indian by origin, who founded a humanitarian aid organization that has provided relief to people world wide has received one of South Africa's highest honour – the Order of the Baobab in Silver from President Jacob Zuma.
Dr. Imtiaz Sooliman, who started the “Gift of the Givers Foundation” in 1992, received the Order of the Baobab in Silver from President Jacob Zuma at a function in the Presidential Guest House in Pretoria last night.
The Order of the Baobab recognises South African citizens who have contributed to community service, business and economy, science, medicine and technological innovation and is given out to deserving recipients each year to mark the public holiday of Freedom Day, April 27, when South Africa's first democratically elected President Nelson Mandela was sworn into office in 1994.
Dr. Sooliman's citation indicated that he was being honoured "For his excellent contribution through the Gift of the Givers Foundation to humanitarian aid in South Africa and humanitarian relief missions in various countries."
His foundation is currently the largest non-governmental organization in Africa.
The organisation's previous work includes relief work after the earthquake in Gujarat, a few years ago and their latest efforts were in earthquake-stricken Haiti, where its team found the first survivor.
It was in 1992 when one of the worst tragedies to affect the world occurred: the Yugoslavian War and the wide scale massacre of Bosnian Muslims. As the world watched, unresponsive to the scale of the tragedy, one man, Dr. Imtiaz Sooliman took action.
In 1993, Gift of the Givers developed the first and largest containerized mobile hospital and with the help of the United Nations and in spite of many obstacles the mobile hospital was dispatched and delivered to the Muslims of Bosnia.
Since then, Gift of the Givers has delivered more than $26 million worth of aid to 22 countries, including South Africa. In the endeavor to implement a rapid response scheme, Gift of the Givers has often been the first to respond to crises around the world and has a number of achievements in its 13-year existence.
It was the only charitable organization allowed to land its own plane at Baghdad International Airport after the second Gulf War to deliver aid to the Iraqi people.
They were also the first NGO in the world to respond to the Sri Lanka and Somalia tsunamis.
More recently, according to Sky News, Gift of the Givers was one of the first five agencies in the world to respond to the Pakistani earthquake, affecting the North West Frontier Province & Kashmir.
Gift of the Givers has earned the respect and admiration of not only the Muslim community in South Africa, but also that of non-Muslims and the South African government.
Dr Imtiaz Sooliman was born in Potchefstroom, North West Province, to parents of Indian descent. He started his schooling in Potchefstroom, but moved to the province of KwaZulu-Natal for further studies.
Incidentally, on Friday evening, Dr. Sooliman had received an Honorary Doctorate from his alma mater, the University of Natal, in recognition of his Social Services.
In its recognition of the humanitarian work carried out by Gift of the Givers, various organizations, including the South African and Pakistani governments have presented Dr. Sooliman with a number of awards over the years.
Mentioned below is an exhaustive list of the awards received by this extra-ordinary human being:
S.A Navy Award for Outstanding Humanitarian Sevice – 1991
President's Order of the Star of South Africa State President, Mr. F. W. De Klerk -1992
Outstanding Service to Mostar Award, Bosnia - 1994
Post / Impressions Ginneth Skinner Award - 1995
Four Outstanding Young South Africans Award - 1995
PMB City Council Outstanding Community Service Award
Received Civic Honors Award from President Nelson Mandela on behalf of PMB - 1997
Institute of Islamic Services - Outstanding Humanitarian Service Award - 1998
PMB Community Rotary Award - 1999
ifetime Achievement Award, Islamic College of S.A. - 1999
Khanyisa Award for best Clinic in Eikenhof - 2000
Service to Palestine Award from Sheikh Yusuf al Qardawi – 2001
Peniel Mission Ministries Humanitarian Service Award – 2001
Hatfield Rotary Vocational Services - 2003
Palestine Support Committee Human Rights Award - 2003
Outstanding Service AwardSouth African Memon Foundation - 2003
Most Proudly South African Community Organisation Award - 2003
Royal Agricultural Show Gold Medallion - 2004
East Coast Award - 2004
Lenasia Human Rights Award - 2004
Tamil Protective Society Award - 2005
Award from Pakistan Military for Pakistan Earthquake - 2005
Visionaries in Africa Award from Spirit Sundae - 2005
Paul Harris AwardHighest Award from Rotary - 2005
Golden Key Award for Meritorious Service - 2005
Afro-Asian Award for Pakistan Earthquake - 2005
Charity of the Year, Midlands Liberty Mall - 2006
Certificate of Recognition for Pakistan Earthquake
Health Professionals Council of S.A. - 2006
Award from Gujurat City and Pakistan Muslim League for Pakistan Earthquake – 2006
Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa Award - 2006
Occasional Satyagraha Award From Gandhi Development Trust - 2006
Presidential Award for Pakistan Earthquake , From Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf - 2006
Convocation Award, University of KwaZulu Natal – 2007
Honorary Doctorate, Tshwane University of Technology, Tshwane
HIV / AIDS Service Delivery Award, Presidents Office Malawi, Malawi
Excellence in Health Care Award, South African Medical Association
Diversity Leader Award, Malawi
Community Service Award, Minara Chamber of Commerce
International Commendation Award
Shotokan Karate -do International Federation (SKIF) and Shotokan Karate-do International South Africa (SKISA) - Inducted as an Honourary Life Patron of SKISA
Community Service Award, Islamic Medical Association of Tshwane
It is only fitting that he was recently recognized as one of 500 of the world's most influential Muslims, by Prof. John Esposito of Georgetown University.