Each month we celebrate a local champion during the Year of Giving: meet a Dubai resident who is making the world a better place…

Step inside one of Naima Thompson’s theatre workshops, and you’ll soon realise it’s not your usual drama class.

In one exercise, Thompson beats a drum, and her students take on the personas of underprivileged children, born into very different circumstances than their own. The young actors explore issues of child labour, poverty, and inequality.

Thompson, who is originally from Trinidad & Tobago, is the founder of Necessary Arts, a performing arts school which aims to support children in developing nations.

The drama teacher at GEMS Dubai American Academy was inspired to start Necessary Arts while working in Harlem, New York in the 1990s.

“There were a large number of students who we referred to as ‘latchkey kids’… they were out on the streets, just hanging around, no parents at home. I recognised there were so many kids with a lot of spare time and nothing to really get involved in.”

Thompson invited the children to take part in acting classes after school, providing a safe space for them to express themselves. She thought a similar programme could work in her home country, so upon returning to Trinidad in 2001, she set up Necessary Arts as an NGO.

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Now based in Dubai, Thompson has registered Necessary Arts with the International Humanitarian City. The school has an outreach programme, holding regular workshops that raise funds for children in countries like Kenya, Tanzania and the Syria-Turkey border.

Over the past two decades, Thompson has worked tirelessly for both the children she teaches and those she is supporting overseas – even after being diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2015.

“During that time, I realised how attached I am to Necessary Arts,” she said.

“It wasn’t until I got breast cancer and it knocked me down that I realised, I have to put things in place. I have to get a team of people that can make the work happen regardless of where I am.”

Now cancer-free, Thompson says she is looking forward to being able to get back to her outreach work, and spreading the Necessary Arts message.

“We in Dubai are so privileged – and we don’t even think about what it is that we don’t have,” she said.

“I would like to see everybody have a focus on humanity in one form or another. I have my focus on Necessary Arts, and our focus for humanity is education. I would like to encourage everyone to connect themselves with some form of support for humanity.”

Thompson was nominated for our #DubaiDoesGood series by her colleague, Suzzanne Pautler, who had this to say: I am overwhelmed by her passion for her students as well as her holistic focus on humanitarianism. She is a selfless individual who constantly does good!”


Necessary Arts is putting on a Thespian’s Showcase at The Junction in Al Serkal Avenue Al Quoz on Monday May 15 from 7pm to 8.30pm. Admission is free. More info on Facebook.

For more information on Necessary Arts visit necessaryartsschool.com.


Do you know someone extra special who deserves to be recognised for their good work? All you have to do is direct message us on Facebook, and tell us a little about them, or chuck us an email at siobhan.downes@motivate.ae. Or if you just want to share the love more generally, throw a story out there on social media with the hashtag #DubaiDoesGood.

We’ll be in touch to find out more!

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Video Editing: Surajit Dutta & Donnie Miguel. Photos & video: Supplied & Kristina Nabieva.