Mohamed Bezek, a U.S. national of Libyan origin, was recognized as Citizen of Year by TRT World Citizen, an initiative of the English-language channel of Turkey's public broadcaster. Bzeek is known for his foster parenting of terminally ill children and had already received another award in Turkey for his act of kindness. This 63-year-old man is the subject of "Guardian of Angels," a documentary by Turkish filmmaker Ensar Altay.
Bzeek, who lives in California, has dedicated his life to terminally ill children since 1995. He took in 80 children and was hailed for his work in a foster care system that does not offer extra care for terminally ill children mostly confined to hospitals. Bzeek, a Muslim, says he does this "to earn the blessing of Allah." "The key is you have to love them like your own. I know they are sick, I know they are going to die. I do my best as a human being and leave the rest to God," he said in a recent interview. "I have been asked ‘why do you do this?' and answer is simple. Even if these children cannot communicate or see or hear, they have a soul. They need somebody to love them. I tell them: ‘It will be OK, I am here for you. We will go through this together," he told People magazine in an interview.
Other recipients of TRT World Citizen awards distributed on Wednesday night were Jerome Jarre of France, Sakena Yacoobi of Afghanistan and Hawa Abdi of Somalia.
Jarre is recognized as Communicator of Year for his social media campaign to deliver humanitarian aid to Somalia. Jarre, a 28-year-old social media personality, raised about $3 million to aid Somalis hit by a drought. His Love Army of donors and followers funded 65 tons of aid for Somalia last year and Turkey's national carrier Turkish Airlines delivered the aid. Jarre also raised more than $1 million to aid Rohingya people who were forced to flee persecution in Myanmar to Bangladesh.
Yacoobi, chosen as Educator of the Year by the TRT World Citizen initiative, is recognized for her work educating girls and women in Afghanistan. She is the founder of the Afghan Institute of Learning, which was founded in 1995. Yacoobi is credited for breaking ground in the education of Afghan women and is known for secret schools she set up to educate girls during the period of Taliban rule in the 1990s.
Abdi received a Lifetime Achievement award for her work in Somalia. 71-year-old Abdi is a renowned human rights activist and physician. Her non-profit Hawa Abdi Foundation offers free health services to disadvantaged Somalis.