The State of Qatar announced this week that the remaining $13.7 million of its $30 million Qatar Harvey Fund would be directed toward a variety of Houston area projects, including building soccer fields, repairing a community center and providing grants to community organizations.
The tiny oil-rich nation announced that $3.3 million would be donated to build eight Harris County soccer fields. Another $1.72 million donation will aid Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts (MECA) in repairing the Dow School Building in Houston, according to a Qatar Harvey Fund press release issued Tuesday.
The remaining $8.7 million will go toward grants for other charitable organizations, the release stated. The Blue Triangle Community Center will receive almost $5 million and Habitat for Humanity will receive $3.2 million to help restore homes impacted by the hurricane. The Rebuild Texas Fund, which in 2018 received $5 million, will also be granted $545,580.
“Helping to provide continued access to educational resources and opportunities in the wake of Hurricane Harvey is a primary goal of the Qatar Harvey Fund,” stated His Excellency Sheikh Meshal bin Hamad Al-Thani, Qatar’s Ambassador to the U.S. and Chair of the Qatar Harvey Fund “MECA has been an educational beacon in the Houston area for more than forty-two years, and we want to help ensure that it continues to brighten the lives of children for many more generations to come.”
The $13.7 million is being dispersed at the discretion of an advisory board, which included, among others, University of Houston system President Renu Khator, former Houston Mayor Bill White and Eileen Lawal with the Houston Freedmen’s Town Conservatory.
In a phone interview with the Chronicle, Mike Howlett, special projects coordinator for Harris County Precinct 4, said the soccer fields and other amenities funded by the Harvey Fund will be constructed in phases, starting later this year.
“This is something the community will be able to benefit from,” he said.
The soccer fields, which will be constructed in Precincts 1 and 4, will also be used as water collection basins. The Precinct 4 soccer fields will be in Alabonson Park. The others will be in Precinct 1’s Blue Ridge Park.
“I’m extremely grateful that Qatar has been here for our city after we faced one of the greatest challenges in the wake of Hurricane Harvey,” Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis said in a press release on Monday.
He said the “generous gift will provide soccer fields at Blue Ridge Park for our families to enjoy. Also, the flood mitigation component of this project will help protect thousands of people who live in the Sims Bayou watershed from future flooding.”
The $30 million Qatar Harvey Fund was announced in 2017 for the long term recovery of southeast Texas.
The Associated Press reported that Qatar’s donation was revealed on the same day that the United Arab Emirates — an opponent in a Persian Gulf region dispute — said it would donate $10 million to people impacted by Harvey. Both sides of the conflict have run what the AP called “aggressive public relations campaigns” in the United States to try to get lawmakers on their side.