Most Influential Filipinos in the Gulf: Desiree Vlekken – Alzheimer’s Advocate
Inspired by his father’s memory-related health problems, Desiree Vlekken founded 4get-me-not; a non-profit organization committed to raising awareness on Alzheimer’s disease in the UAE. In cooperation with like-minded community groups, corporate and government entities, 4get-me-not conducts various activities designed to promote brain health and provide proper information on how to care for people living with Alzheimer’s. “We host a lot of community events in different Emirates involving pre-med student volunteers, health and medical professionals,” Desiree expounds. “We communicate the message to the community in various channels starting with film documentary screenings on Alzheimer’s. We also promote activities based on Neuroscience that promote brain health such as musical presentations by volunteer performers, photography competitions and table tennis tournaments which were recently held at NOVO Cinema Complex and Dubai Festival City Mall.”
Having no previous medical background, Desiree faced many challenges in the initial stages of the 4get-me-not. Leading the organization meant that she had to educate and transform herself into the region’s thought leader in the subject of Alzheimer’s disease. But clearly, her efforts have paid off. In February of 2015, she received the Humanitarian Award from WOW (World of Women) Middle East – which came as a complete shock to her, as she did not even know that she was nominated. “I chose the road less-travelled,” says Desiree. “I recall working dead hours of the night, including weekend and holidays, doing research, planning, and organizing events – all the while managing a household! This is workload is overwhelming for a full-time mom like myself, but luckily, my family understands and supports what I do.”
Desiree is currently planning and designing a program that would benefit both Alzheimer’s patients and their families and caregivers.