Find out how this Emirati entrepreneur makes a difference with music

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Touching thousands of young lives over the past decade, Badri has proved to be a pioneer of music education in the Gulf. (Supplied)
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Touching thousands of young lives over the past decade, Badri has proved to be a pioneer of music education in the Gulf. (Supplied)
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Touching thousands of young lives over the past decade, Badri has proved to be a pioneer of music education in the Gulf. (Supplied)
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Touching thousands of young lives over the past decade, Badri has proved to be a pioneer of music education in the Gulf. (Supplied)
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Updated 08 March 2018
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Find out how this Emirati entrepreneur makes a difference with music

Whether viewed as an entrepreneur, a musician or a philanthropist, Tala Badri is an inspirational figure.
As the founder of Dubai’s game-changing Centre for Musical Arts (CMA), she invented the ideal vehicle to channel all these callings into the cause she holds most dear.
Touching thousands of young lives over the past decade, Badri has proved to be a pioneer of music education in the Gulf.
Her efforts have earned a shelf of business awards, which is remarkable given that the CMA is run as a non-profit organization.
The Emirati altruist has directed resources toward leading outreach programs for disadvantaged street children in Cambodia and young Palestinian refugees.
“Someone recently offered to buy (my business) out, but they would’ve totally destroyed it,” laughed the 45-year-old.
“Their concept of music education was to run it like a pure business. I was absolutely mortified.
“I was like, ‘that’s not happening. I don’t care how much money I’m not going to make, I’m not going to hand over something I’ve built for more than 11 years and let you ruin it’.”
Badri first began breaking down doors while still a teenager, when she became the first Emirati to pursue a university education in music, some quarter-century ago, after her parents battled for government funding to study abroad.
“It was tough. My mum and dad had to go in and fight for me to study music, really fight for it. If they hadn’t, I’d be somewhere very different today,” she said.
The campaign was rewarded when Badri later graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London, in 1995.
To this day, she remains the only Emirati woman to earn a degree in music. “It’s very sad, because it shows in 25 years nothing has changed,” she said.
“When people see music as something important that develops a person, not a frivolous hobby, that’s when it’s truly changed.
“We need recognition of what music gives you in terms of softer skills. More and more employers are looking for the ability to think artistically.
“From a business perspective, they’re looking for a sense of cursivity, rather than just a business degree, in getting people to think outside the box.”
Badri has certainly done her bit toward the battle. After earning a second degree in management and languages, then spending 10 years working for international brands in the financial and consumer sector, she had assembled the skills to pursue her calling.
On the back of a small business loan, the CMA was founded in September 2006 with just six teachers.
Within a month all classes were full, and by the end of the year the school’s waiting list had swelled to almost 150, proof of the undernourished arts education at the time.
Within two years 1,200 pupils had enrolled, and the CMA today employs 40 staff and works alongside 16 schools.
Along the way, Badri’s achievements have been repeatedly hailed by the male-dominated, bottom line-driven business community — ironically, as she invests all profits into the center, merely paying herself a teacher’s salary.
In 2010, she won both Best Emirati Entrepreneur and Best Female Entrepreneur at the Gulf Capital SME Awards, the same year she was asked to speak at TEDxDubai 2010.
A year later, she was invited to an audience with Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden while in town to pick up a Certificate of Appreciation Award.
Badri has also been named a Patron of the Arts and a Friends of the Arts by her hometown authorities, and in 2013 the CMA was named Emirati Business of the Year at Gulf Capital.
“I get a lot of recognition from a business perspective. I’ve built a business and seen it through two financial downturns. I know how hard it is to be an entrepreneur,” she said.
“I could go into consulting and make shedloads of money. I could make anyone else’s business work, but I don’t want to. I want to make my own business work.
“I still feel I haven’t achieved what I really want to do until I feel that the concept of music education in the region has really changed.
“Performing arts in general aren’t looked on favorably. It’s seen as flaunting yourself, putting yourself out there. I want it to become the norm.”
One might call Badri a social entrepreneur. In August, she will lead the CMA’s sixth annual expedition to Siem Reap, Cambodia, to work with street children at an orphanage run by the Green Gecko Project.
A team from the school has also travelled to Lebanon to work with children in a refugee camp administered by the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF). The CMA has hosted visiting children from both projects in Dubai.
“You have to do it to understand what it does to you as a person. All those who’ve come with us to Cambodia have come back changed and completely reenergized in how they think about things,” said Badri.
“Teaching is a very self-sacrificing job. You become a teacher because you’ve got a talent and a skill, but we normally teach very privileged children, and it’s so different to work with children so underprivileged but so hungry to learn.
“It’s one of the most satisfying things you can do as a person, to see that you can make another person smile or sing. It’s incredibly rewarding.”


Worth the sting: Cuba’s scorpion pain remedy

Farmer Pepe Casanas poses with a scorpion in Los Palacios, Cuba, December 5, 2018. Picture taken December 5, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 16 December 2018
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Worth the sting: Cuba’s scorpion pain remedy

  • In Cuba, where tens of thousands of patients have been treated with Vidatox, each vial costs under a dollar
  • The scorpions are caught in the wild as Labiofam workers believe their venom — which is not dangerous — is not as potent when raised in captivity

HAVANA: Once a month for the last decade, Pepe Casanas, a 78-year-old Cuban farmer, has hunted down a scorpion to sting himself with, vowing that the venom wards off his rheumatism pains.
His natural remedy is no longer seen as very unusual here.
Researchers in Cuba have found that the venom of the blue scorpion, whose scientific name is Rhopalurus junceus, endemic to the Caribbean island, appears to have anti-inflammatory and pain relief properties, and may be able to delay tumor growth in some cancer patients.
While some oncologists abroad say more research is needed to be able to properly back up such a claim, Cuban pharmaceutical firm Labiofam has been using scorpion venom since 2011 to manufacture the homeopathic medicine Vidatox.
The remedy has proven popular.
Labiofam Business Director Carlos Alberto Delgado told Reuters sales were climbing 10 percent annually. Vidatox already sells in around 15 countries worldwide and is currently in talks with China to sell the remedy there.
In Cuba, where tens of thousands of patients have been treated with Vidatox, each vial costs under a dollar. On the black market abroad it can cost hundred times that — retailers on Amazon.com are seen selling them for up to $140.
“I put the scorpion where I feel pain,” Casanas said while demonstrating his homemade pain relief with a scorpion that he found under a pile of debris on the patch of land he cultivates in Cuba’s western province of Pinar del Rio.
After squeezing it long enough, it stung him and he winced.
“It hurts for a while, but then it calms and goes and I don’t have any more pain,” he said.
Casanas, a leathery-skinned former tobacco farmer who now primarily grows beans for his own consumption, said he sometimes keeps a scorpion under his straw hat like a lucky charm.
It likes the shade and humidity, he says, so just curls up and sleeps.

FROM FARM TO LAB
In a Labiofam laboratory in the southern Cuban city of Cienfuegos, workers dressed in scrubs and hairnets tend to nearly 6,000 scorpions housed in plastic containers lined up on rows of metal racks.
Every few days they feed and water the arachnids that sit on a bed of small stones. Once a month, they apply an 18V electrical jolt to their tails using a handcrafted machine in order to trigger the release of a few drops of venom.
The venom is then diluted with distilled water and shaken vigorously, which homeopathic practitioners believe activates its “vital energy.”
The scorpions are caught in the wild as Labiofam workers believe their venom — which is not dangerous — is not as potent when raised in captivity.
After two years of exploitation in the “escorpionario,” they are released back into the wild.
Dr. Fabio Linares, the head of Labiofam’s homeopathic medicine laboratory who developed the medicine, said Vidatox stimulates the body’s natural defense mechanisms.
“After four to five years (of taking it), the doctor whose care I was in told me that my cancer hadn’t advanced,” said Cuban patient Jose Manuel Alvarez Acosta, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008.
Still, Labiofam recommends Vidatox as a supplemental treatment and says it should not replace conventional ones.