Mumbai NGO celebrates Oscar for ‘The White Helmets’

Mumbai, Feb 28 (IANS) As the world tuned in to the 89th Academy Awards ceremony this year, mini-celebrations erupted outside the offices of Harmony Foundation, in a small lane in Santacruz suburb on Monday.

The Harmony Foundation and its volunteers rejoiced, cheered and celebrated as the Oscar for Best Documentary in the Short Film Category was announced to a 40-minute film, “The White Helmets”, symbolising the Syria Civil Defence.

For, long before the Oscars, the Harmony Foundation had recognised the exemplary work done by “The White Helmets” in saving civilians trapped in war-torn Syria and conferred it with the prestigious “St. Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice 2016”.

“Through our award, we acknowledged the exemplary work of organisations like Syria Civil Defence, working under extremely challenging and difficult situations, with great risk to their lives. We are passing through turbulent times and the society badly needs peace,” Harmony Foundation Founder-President Abraham Mathai told IANS.

Congratulating “The White Helmets” for their inspiring work which has bagged them the coveted Oscar, Mathai said it would go a long way towards ensuring equality, social justice and inclusiveness in society, and pave the way for peace in Syria.

Formed in 2014, The Syria Civil Defence is a group of around 3,000 local volunteers serving in rebel-controlled Syria during the ongoing six-year long civil war.

Mostly ordinary folks with common backgrounds like students, tailors, carpenters or technicians, they have dedicated themselves to saving the lives of over 82,000 people injured in attacks by fighter jets, choppers, barrel bombs, cluster explosives, phosphorus bombs and chlorine shells on civilian localities and health care centres.

The Harmony Foundation’s award, instituted in 2005 in the memory of Mother Teresa, is the only one in the world recognised by the institution she founded, the Missionaries of Charity, Kolkata.

Mother Teresa was canonised to Sainthood on September 4 last year by Pope Francis at The Vatican.

Some of the past recipients have been Medecins Sans Frontieres, the Dalai Lama, Malala Yousafzai, Dr. Mahathir Mohammad, Baroness Caroline Cox and other global personalities or organisations, Mathai said.