May 1, 2008
The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, talks volunteers from Belleville, Ill., who were down on the Coast helping build homes Wednesday. The Emir visited the houses that his multi-million dollar donation to the area helped build.
Emir of Qatar visits South Mississippi
The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, made his first visit to the Coast on Wednesday, to see a group of Habitat for Humanity houses his $100 million post-Katrina donation helped build.
He arrived with Gov. Haley Barbour in Blackhawk helicopters at the Seabee Base in Gulfport, then motorcaded down 44th Avenue. His first stop was at the Habitat-built home of Rodney Hart, a Memorial Hospital at Gulfport employee who was renting when Katrina hit.
As part of earning a Habitat for Humanity home, Hart had to put in several sweat-equity hours. He said every nail he hammered was worth it.
"This is going to be yours, yours to own, yours to cherish," he said in a previous interview.
The Emir continued by foot down the street, in contrast to his New Orleans visit, in which he was criticized for not leaving his car. He spoke with Habitat volunteers from Illinois, building two homes nearby.
"I am happy to see this," said the Emir at the building site. "The crisis made us neighbors. I'm proud of the development."
At the end of lunch, Barbour presented the Emir with a Walter Anderson print of two doves facing each other.
"The two doves signify our gratitude," Barbour said.
The Emir and the governor then toured Northrop Grumman's shipbuilding facilities, said Barbour spokesperson Pete Smith.
Of the $100 million, $22 million went to Habitat for nearly 300 homes, all of which will be done by June 2008. Housing creates stability, said Kent Adcock, director of business development and community relations of the Mississippi Gulf Coast chapter of Habitat for Humanity. And with stability comes a more rapid recovery.
Other recipients of the Qatari funds included children's programs and health care programs.
The Boys and Girls Club got $5 million, which will go toward a new 28,000 square foot children's center in Pass Christian, said Executive Director Sam Burke at a luncheon held in honor of the Emir's visit. Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran said some funds went to one of their KaBoom! playgrounds.
Coastal Family Health Center received $3.4 million and Memorial Hospital received $10.8 million to serve the uninsured and underinsured.