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Haitham Alaini -- Stresses Importance of Preservation for Building the Future

/ -- Yemeni entrepreneur and philanthropist, Haitham Alaini strives to preserve, support, and grow the Arabian Peninsula nation of Yemen. The Founder and CEO of the Griffin Group has built his company through oil and gas infrastructure projects, and has taken an active role in working with the Yemeni business community to become involved in actions for the greater good of the nation. Over the course of 20 years, Alaini has invested his time, funds and boundless energy into organizations like the Acacia Foundation, which works towards the conservation of the country's resources. Striving to eradicate illiteracy and poverty through education, while creating programs promoting environmental sustainability and architectural construction and renovation, Alaini endeavors to involve his fellow citizens in building a better Yemen for tomorrow.

Haitham Alaini believes that preparing people through education is one of the most practical and helpful ways of securing a better future. He posits that Yemen's educational system needs to be refocused; an investment in promoting a new curriculum that stresses vocational training would strengthen the country's labor pool by teaching students real-world skills. Though distant locations, unreliable power sources and internet connectivity make progress difficult in our increasingly connected world, Alaini suggests that education could be further strengthened through the use of the ingenious $35 US computer, the Raspberry Pi. The low-cost, low-energy device that is also capable of running on a battery connected to a solar panel provides underserved students with a window into the world of technology in a place where they may not have electricity. This access to a formerly impossible scenario of creating a learning pathway to programming will further bolster the country's prospects.

Many works spearheaded by Haitham Alaini are also geared toward ecological protection. Two pressing issues that are of personal importance include the diversification of Yemeni farming and securing the wild population of the critically endangered Arabian leopard. The former problem stems from the cultural practice of chewing qat, a leaf whose recreational use was recently heavily regulated. Alaini describes it as the "national crop and an addictive pastime --somewhere between a mild narcotic and several concentrated cups of coffee." And though the ubiquitous plant accounts for 10 percent of the GDP and its production employs 14 percent of the workforce, it has become an environmental problem; its cultivation depletes Yemen's precious water reserves by using ever-deeper underground water sources. Alaini insists that the water supply must be protected. By financially assisting farmers to transition to other valuable crops like olives, coffee and almonds, while offering improved, alternative pest control measures, he says the strategy will guard drinking water sources. Another natural jewel that must be safeguarded from illegal activity such as capture and skinning, the roughly 200 wild Arabian leopards face the threat of extinction. Helped by widespread education and lobbying efforts, Alaini and the Foundation for the Protection of the Arabian Leopard have made encouraging advances toward saving this graceful symbol of the Yemeni people.

Of no less importance is the preservation of the country's mosques, monuments and landmark structures. Alaini says that these buildings perfectly represent Yemeni culture and as standing testimonials to the nation's heritage, they must be maintained. He cites examples such as the Nehm Mosque in the similarly named mountain chain, which was an environmentally friendly example of building with strictly organic materials such as earth gypsum, wood ghadad, basalt, volcanic stones and local mud mortar. Another gem, the 16th-century palace of Alabhar Quarter in Old Sana'a, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was restored using traditional techniques and period-appropriate materials, showing that it is possible to keep the past alive while attending to the most unyielding needs of a people.

Haitham Alaini is the Founder and CEO of the Griffin Group, an entrepreneur, philanthropist and conservationist who created the Acacia Foundation, a Yemeni Non-Profit Organization (NPO) that works to save local Yemeni heritage and the environment, while promoting the arts, cultural awareness and education amongst young youth. He has been an active member of The Foundation for Endangered Wildlife's (FEW) Board of Trustees since June 2010 and has worked tirelessly with its sister group, the Foundation for the Protection of the Arabian Leopard, by providing vital technical, moral, and financial support to FEW since the NGO's inception.

Haitham Alaini -- Yemeni Entrepreneur and Philanthropist:

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Haitham Alaini -- Preserves Yemen's Arabian Leopard as a Symbol of Resurgence:

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