In the past two years, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government has been providing financial assistance to needy communities across the US, including building all-weather soccer fields in low-income areas of major cities and providing laptops to every high school student in Joplin, MO, which saw six of its schools destroyed by the 2011 tornado. Besides simply wanting to help, the UAE hopes to create a favorable impression among Americans. A poll given by its embassy showed that 7 in 10 respondents had no opinion about the country, while the remainder held an unfavorable opinion.
What’s the Big Idea?
Although the US is still the world’s largest provider of foreign aid, other wealthy countries have been stepping up their donations in recent years. Traditionally, the UAE and other Persian Gulf nations have given money to American hospitals and universities, but ambassador Youssef al Otaiba says that his country wants to go further: “We spot needs and we try to help.” In the case of Joplin’s schools, a combination of up-front cash and a matching grant brought laptops to the students. Joplin school superintendent C.J. Huff says accepting the aid is “the right thing for the kids.”