Tell us about the centre.
The Al Noor Training Centre For Children With Special Needs is the first of its kind in the region. It has grown from just eight students in 1981 to more than 250 – plus an ever-increasing waiting list – today. It aims to help individuals with special needs achieve their potential and provides a comprehensive training programme including therapy, work placement, computer and vocational training. We have children with developmental delay, children who find it difficult to fit into a normal social setting such as a regular school, children who are physically or mentally challenged, as well as those with social-skill problems including Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy and autism. The children in the core programme are aged three to 21, and we run early intervention programmes which take in children from birth.
You offer creative subjects like yoga, music and dance. How do these subjects help?
Music and dance are activities everyone should enjoy, whether they have special needs or not. The children respond to music very well and they enjoy sports and yoga, so their physical and mental development can only be helped by that.
Do the parents get involved?
Parents are an extremely important part of school. Families in Dubai come from many different cultural, national and economic backgrounds and their expectations for their children’s education are very different, so we work with each individual family to come up with the best curriculum and learning strategies tailored to their own child. We also have a psychologist at the centre who counsels not only the children, but the parents, too, offering extra support and building a relationship between school and home.
Who pays for the centre?
Because of our large, professional team, fees for our students are subsidised. We have special educators, speech therapists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychologists and classroom assistants, so the cost of educating our children is dramatically higher than that for a child who attends a typical school. The cost for parents would be rather prohibitive if left solely to them so we have had a lot of help from supporters over the years. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, built the new centre in Al Barsha for us. Since the highly subsidised fees do not cover the full amount of the training programme, the centre raises the remainder through events, campaigns and projects. In certain cases, the entire training for a child is sponsored. The centre receives no official or fixed funding from any source, so expanding our services is a problem. That’s why fundraising is really important for Al Noor.
Speaking of which, we hear you’re launching a credit card campaign for donations.
That’s right, it launched this month. It will last a year and has a few objectives. Firstly, because of the current economic climate, our partners have been negatively affected so large donations are not easy to come by. This campaign aims to get smaller donations from more people. Having the community involved at this level is very important for us. Lastly, it will hopefully be regular, meaning that we have a continuous income of donations. We’re asking people to donate a minimum monthly amount of Dhs25.
What about fundraising events?
We’ll be launching our annual greeting card and handicraft catalogue this month. The catalogue consists of brilliant artwork from professional artists, local schoolchildren and artwork by our own students, which are then made into greeting cards. The public can buy the cards and crafts from the school and they will soon be available on our website, alnooruae.ae.
How can Time Out readers help?
Every alternate Monday afternoon we will be encouraging people to come into the centre in small groups. We will give a presentation about Al Noor and a tour around the centre. We want to offer people the opportunity then to decide where they’d like to volunteer within the school, as we have many different areas and we always need volunteers.
If you would like to make a donation to the Al Noor Centre or learn more about its programmes, call 04 340 4844 or email email@example.com. Visit the website, www.atalnooruae.ae.