Harper's Bazaar Arabia: Congratulations on the opening of The Happy Studio! What is it exactly?
Jumana Al Darwish: It’s all my dreams come true! I started The Happy Box from my dining room table, then had to move operations to my garage when we began to grow so quickly. The Happy Studio serves many purposes. It’s our own little factory, where we make our happy boxes ourselves - this themed, monthly subscription service of activity boxes for children are always going to be our bread and butter. But now we have a space to host parties and events, to launch interactive art installations and to create community outreach. It’s something of a Pop Art community space where I can bring to life all the crazy and fun things I dream up in my head, a space for people of all age groups and all backgrounds to come and enjoy. It’s our base, we’re finally at home now in Alserkal Avenue.
HBA: So what does THB have up its sleeve these days?
JAD: We’re gearing up to celebrate our fourth anniversary and we have plenty to showcase,
from the launch of our The Happy Studio, to the fact that we’ve grown so much in the region with franchises across the GCC, and how proud we are to continue working hard with our Happy Hearts initiative. I’ve always been very vocal about my belief in the importance of giving back and of the universality of happiness. I really hope to utilize our platform to reach the masses.
It’s four years of spreading happiness and joy, with only brighter, bigger dreams on the horizon!
HBA: Tell us more about this trip. Where did you go?
JAD: Morocco. It’s the eighth country where we have been able to gift Happy Kits to children through our partnerships, and we consider it an honour every time we get to impact communities positively through our simple methods of spreading happiness. The trip was made possible thanks to Dubai Exports, UPS and Hudsons Travel. And best of all, the beautiful and distinctive Royal Mansour Hotel in Marrakech very graciously accommodated us for the duration of our visit.
We greatly value these types of partnerships; they are what make our vision possible.
HBA How does THB support regional communities? And why is it important for you to do so?
JAD: When I launched The Happy Box in May 2014, it didn’t feel complete until we were able to launch the Happy Hearts initiative just over a year later, during Ramadan in 2015.
Spreading happiness is an integral part of what we do. I have spent my whole life wanting to give back to communities in need, influenced as I am from such a young age by my father’s work in the UN and by my early work as a philanthropist for both governmental and non-governmental agencies. I knew, when launching The Happy Box, that it would feel right only once Happy Hearts was up and running to spread happiness to all.
HBA: Why did you decide to visit Morocco on this trip?
JAD: There are children in need all over the world and we have a huge responsibility to try and give back, and that’s exactly what we’re doing. The opportunity presented itself for us to help out in Morocco and we jumped on it. Morocco is a beautiful, vibrant country with such wonderful, welcoming people and we feel honoured to be bringing a smile to these children in Marrakech. We’ve already gifted thousands of happy boxes to thousands of children in need, in countries as diverse as Kenya, Jordan, Egypt, Nepal, India and Lebanon.
HBA: What did you hope to bring to the community?
JAD: Just putting a smile on these children’s face is enough to make us feel like it was a good day’s work. Our mantra at The Happy Box is simple and straightforward: to spread happiness, in all its forms, and to all peoples. No matter the age, the gender, the social status, the background, the race - happiness is a right that should be accessible and attainable by all. By gifting our Happy Kits - a simple but meaningful gift of educational materials and colourful stationary - to children, we are showing how little it takes to bring happiness to an innocent child’s life. We’re starting small. It doesn’t take much at all, but it means the world to them, and makes all the difference.
HBA: On a trip like this, do you reach out to community members ahead of time? How do you decide which locations to visit?
JAD: I’m very lucky in that I know what needs to be done when it comes to giving back to the community and how to engage in social responsibility, thanks to my previous career working in philanthropy. The more countries we visit, the wider our network becomes, and we are tireless in our mission to spread happiness. So it just becomes another part of my day: reaching out to those in the NGO community whom I have had the privilege of working with, who I know are credible and transparent, and who assist us in our gifting programmes and facilitate the logistics so we can concentrate on getting to those children.
On this particular trip, it was an honour to work with the Eve Branson Foundation, which is founded and led by Richard Branson’s mother, who is a philanthropist and child welfare advocate. Her foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of women and young girls in the Moroccan Atlas Mountains and helping the local Berber people living in the more remote surrounding villages. I was in awe of the work they do and the impact that they are already making to the Berber communities.
HBA: What was the best moment of the trip for you?
JAD: That’s impossible to answer, because it’s honestly never just one moment. There’s the rush of adrenaline I get just planning the trip, and realising that this is really something that can happen and will happen. Identifying where there is need, packing up the stationary kits, getting ready to meet the kids. Then once we’re actually on the ground, handing out our gifts and seeing the shy smiles that break out on the children’s face, and how delighted they get when they open up their kits and realise that someone out there has thought of them - just them - and brought them something that they don’t easily have access to, something that’s meant to make them smile. There’s honestly nothing like it.
Scroll through our gallery above for exclusive images from the trip, and click here for more information on The Happy Box.