HomeSocial Impact HeroesDr. Mohamed Ashmawey of Human Appeal: 5 Things You Need To Know...

Dr. Mohamed Ashmawey of Human Appeal: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Lead A Nonprofit…

Dr. Mohamed Ashmawey of Human Appeal: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Lead A Nonprofit Organization

A non-profit must be guided by principles and ethics. These are non-negotiable and mandatory. Whether starting a nonprofit from scratch or starting operations in new territories, your work must always be guided by five ethical, participatory and sustainable principles: gender parity, environmental protection, inclusion, protection, and value-for-money.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr Mohamed Ashmawey, CEO, Human Appeal.

Dr. Mohamed Ashmawey has led the Human Appeal family as CEO since April 2019. He has many years’ experience working for the charity sector, including as CEO for Islamic Relief USA and Islamic Relief Worldwide. In recognition of his leadership drive to continuously enhance Human Appeal’s humanitarian operations, the Humanitarian Hero Award was won by Dr Mohammed Ashmawey in Brussels at the AidEx 2022 global conference. The AidEx Humanitarian Hero Award sets out to recognise and celebrate stand-out individuals from the humanitarian aid and development community worldwide.

Thank you so much for doing this with us. Before we begin our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?

I didn’t start out my career in the not-for-profit sector — I began my career in engineering. I worked for 18 years as an engineer and as a manager for the automotive giant General Motors, after gaining a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Maryland.

I have always had a keen interest in humanitarian topics and issues. Humanitarians are required to be neutral, independent, professionally competent and focused only on achieving results when it comes to helping or preventing and alleviating human suffering. This kind of professional criteria with its neutral dedicated focus on results always fascinated me.

After making the shift to the NGO sector, I committed myself entirely to charitable causes including roles as CEO for Islamic Relief USA and Islamic Relief Worldwide, as well as a consultant on the development sector across Europe and the Middle East. Until 2016, I was also chosen to serve as a member of the Civil Society Advisory Team created by the World Economic Forum.

Can you tell us the story behind why you decided to start or join your non nonprofit?

I joined Human Appeal as CEO in 2019. Human Appeal has a history stretching back some 31 years, after being started by three students in a small apartment in Manchester, England. Since that time, it has grown into a phenomenal international humanitarian force for good, on the ground in over 26 countries throughout the world.

Today, Human Appeal has expanded into a family of over 184 employees in the UK, over 500 staff in our international country offices, and over 5000 volunteers, all of us united towards a common goal of a kinder, fairer world.

Our footprint in the USA has also recently begun, after we established an office in California and Dallas over the last year. I am passionately committed to showing how Human Appeal can be ‘here for every human’ within the borders of the United States as well as on an international level.

Can you describe how you or your organization aims to make a significant social impact?

We are an international humanitarian organization, with projects spanning everything from honeybee reintroduction and farming in Pakistan, giving the local population a sustainable income source — through to being one of the first aid organizations on the ground in Pakistan last year following the massive floods, and providing aid and shelter to those affected by the earthquakes in Syria and Turkey within hours of the disaster earlier this year.

However, our work also spans efforts dealing with social issues at home, such as supporting food banks, domestic violence shelters and seeking to ease the plight of the homeless during winter and the recent Hawaii wildfires emergency. Our mantra, ‘here for every human’ has a very wide range of interpretations from contributing to mental health efforts within communities to being first ‘feet on the ground’ after an international disaster.

Without saying any names, can you share a story about an individual who was helped by your idea so far?

Our work covers seven key sectors: child welfare, education, emergency relief, food, health, livelihood and WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene). Since our founding 31 years ago we have executed thousands of humanitarian projects and emergency interventions. Last year alone, we helped 3.8 million beneficiaries around the globe.

We run so many projects on the largest of scales, like providing some of the first humanitarian aid to people affected by the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria last year. However, sometimes it’s the individual, personal stories which really resonate.

We had one amazing story from our team on the ground in Pakistan — about a young boy. We had first encountered him, his mother and brother. He and his brother were addicted to drugs and in exceptionally poor condition, and his brother sadly died just two months after we first met the family. The child in question was HIV positive because of his drug addiction. Human Appeal took on the responsibility for his rehabilitation, and after the first six-month rehab, he sadly regressed and went back into drugs. Our team didn’t give up so we provided a second, six-month rehab session and also relocated him to a new city where he managed to kick his drug habit. More remarkable was that his last blood test showed no trace of HIV infection, as was reported back to us by the medical physicians.

Today, the young boy and his mother are valuable members of the Human Appeal team, contributing to our rehabilitation center in Pakistan and assisting other addicts and parents dealing with drug abuse.

To have had a hand in helping someone in such dire circumstances, on the other side of the world, and to learn of such miraculous results is what motivates everyone at Human Appeal daily.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

We are working across the globe to strengthen humanity’s fight against poverty, social injustice and natural disaster. Through the provision of immediate relief and the establishment of self-sustaining development programmes, we aim to invest in real, effective solutions. We provide vulnerable families with emergency relief, and we work to strengthen local communities by promoting child welfare and supporting sustainable livelihoods. At a time when so many questions are being asked about overseas aid budgets within the developed world due to the sharpness of cost-of-living pressures, I would encourage everyone to recognise the very real difference humanitarian aid provides. It can be literally the difference between life and death for vast numbers of people.

Human Appeal is faith based, but not faith specific. We have faith in all of humanity and believe we can achieve great things when we all work together. Whether you are an official or a private citizen, there are numerous ways you can get involved with the rewarding work Human Appeal carries out. Ways to help include taking on an exhilarating charity challenge, attending our events, raising funds to support our projects worldwide or volunteering. So, the second thing I would suggest would be recognising that everyone can make a personal difference, no matter how small.

Finally, Human Appeal urges all politicians in every country where we operate to develop regulations and policies that assist humanitarian organizations to have easy access, to reach the most remote areas around the world. We also strongly encourage those with political influence to provide funding opportunities for local and international work. Society should engage and take a more active role in helping strengthen organizations like ours, by volunteering their expertise, donating towards projects or communities they hold close to their heart. We would love to see people from all walks of life to amplify this sentiment and galvanize others to make a real, lasting change in millions of lives across the globe.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leaders can be made. A leader needs to develop qualities such as grit, resolve, resilience, and compassion. Humanitarian sector leaders are those who can focus their energy and passion into raising funds and making a difference, while developing skills related to communication, fundraising and Humanitarian field knowledge.

In my eyes, a true leader is someone who can encourage others to share their vision of a better world and inspire people to take actions to bring that vision into reality.

Based on your experience, what are the “5 things a person should know before they decide to start a non-profit”. Please share a story or example for each.

A non-profit must be guided by principles and ethics. These are non-negotiable and mandatory. Whether starting a nonprofit from scratch or starting operations in new territories, your work must always be guided by five ethical, participatory and sustainable principles: gender parity, environmental protection, inclusion, protection, and value-for-money.

We see gender parity coming up as an issue more and more these days, but it still needs to be an area of focus for non-profit organizations. We encourage and support programmes which not only focus on female access to menstrual products in developing regions, where these issues can carry significant stigma, but also in helping to champion men’s mental health campaigns in local communities. Both are to some extent gender issues, and both are still taboo subjects within some communities. If they do not get discussed, the harm that can result is tangible.

Environmental protection is an issue which should be on everyone’s daily priority list. It is also an issue which reaches well beyond care for the environment. The projects I mentioned earlier about reintroducing bees to Pakistan go beyond providing sustainable incomes for local residents; it also introduced a vital pollinator into an area which had seen decline.

Our tenet about being faith based but not faith specific informs our approach to inclusion. Some faith-rooted charities remaining active within their chosen religions. Our approach of ‘here for every human’ means that we seek to assist anyone in difficulties, beyond religious or even country lines. This was most recently a factor in our assistance following the Turkey/ Syria earthquake. From some of those affected in the most remote areas in Syria, we were the only organization able to offer vital support.

Value for money is always a priority for any organisation which relies on the charity of others to operate — whether that is volunteers donating their valuable and precious time, donors giving their funds (especially at the moment when budgets are so tight) or to our trustees and supporters. Charity is a giving act, but it must be on any non-profit leader’s mind to ensure that any funds are being distributed in the most effective manner.

All of this means that at the end of the day a non-profit must continuously strive to enhance female participation at all levels, embed an environmentally friendly approach to work, maintain neutrality, protect the vulnerable and utilize proper processes to ensure funds are not wasted.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world who you would like to talk to, to share the idea behind your non-profit?

With our current expansion into the USA in mind, it would be the legendary sportsman Muhammed Ali. It would have been a great honor to meet him, talk to him and share in his wisdom and intellect. He demonstrated the kind of leadership values that we aspire to represent excellence, courage, persistence, thoughtfulness and compassion.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson” Quote? How is that relevant to you in your life?

Seek progress, not perfection. This life lesson highlights the need to focus on prioritizing steady momentum towards a goal, while at the same time being agile enough to know when and how to adapt to headwinds without freezing. True perfection will always be out of reach. It is no use being on the right track if we are not moving forward. By applying this lesson in both work and daily life, a person can find harmony in the face of the constant change that modern life places before us.

How can our readers follow you online?

I can be found online on LinkedIn at:

I can also be found via these social media links:


This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success in your mission.

Dr. Mohamed Ashmawey of Human Appeal: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Lead A Nonprofit… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.