Al Noor Training Centre for Children with Special Needs has been working tirelessly for 33 years in Dubai and its annual fundraising ball is key to its success. Benita Adesuyan finds how attending can help the school.
Chantal is a tale of hope and success. Working in a shop selling beautiful hand-made items, she was born with Down Syndrome. While many thought she wouldn’t be able to amount to much, she attended the Al Noor Training Centre for Children with Special Needs from the age of three and is now fully employed in the in-house boutique selling the products made by students. Now 21 years old, she is smart in her black suit, articulate and has a charming sales patter that soon sees us parting with a few dirhams for a couple of beautifully beaded bags.
Chantal, like many with special needs, has a bright future and thanks to the support of the centre she’s able to feel like a complete part of society, and Al Noor is trying to help many more young people like her.
Based in Al Barsha, the facility was donated by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai and was made possible through the benefaction of HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein. When it started out, there were only eight children at the school. Now, 270 students attend every day.
At its heart, the organisation has a firm and positive philosophy that people with special needs can make a valid contribution to society and can absolutely reach their full potential. Children attending Al Noor mainly suffer with cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome and autism and other developmental conditions.
Al Noor works with a team of 115 professionals to give each student a comprehensive and individual training programme that includes education, behavioural, physical, motor and sensory development.
Director Isphana Al Khatib, who has been in charge for 15 years, is passionate about the work the centre does to give children with special needs as many opportunities as possible, but at the time same, she’s realistic about the financial burden.
It costs on average Dhs60,000 per year to place a child at Al Noor, an outlay that many families simply cannot afford. While the centre provides a subsidy for the majority of families, she explains even this can be a difficult with 25 percent of parents unable to pay the full subsidised fee.
‘For every child, each year a big amount has to be raised on an ongoing basis. Add to that the fact that there are constantly new things internationally and Dubai is a very progressive city, we have to ensure that whatever we give our students is on a par with this development. So everything requires resources.’
Al Noor is hosting its annual gala dinner on Thursday June 5, a fundraising event that gives awareness to the public of the rights and abilities of people with special needs but also aims to be a good night out for a good cause. Al Khatib says: ‘You’re basically making a real difference in the life of a child. A child will get training, become independent and will be given the opportunity to become a participating member of the emirate as a whole.’
‘We want to be integrated within the community, so it’s important for people to know that people with special needs can be productive. With the right opportunities, it’s through this understanding that we can solicit the right support.’ The centre offers work placements for older students in large companies such as Citibank and the school also produces its own products, which are hand-made by the students and sold in the Smile n’ Stuff shop at the facility and in Bloomingdale’s and Dubai Duty Free.
Al Khatib stresses that though the centre needs support and sponsors, for her and the students at Al Noor, giving back is important for everyone, regardless of their abilities. ‘We look at it as a two-way process. We are asking for support all the time, but we are also aware that whatever limitations our students have, they are also capable of giving.’
Gala dinner Dhs850 per person or Dhs8,000 for a table of ten. Thursday June 5, 8pm. Conrad Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road, www.alnoorspneeds.ae (04 340 4844). If you’re interested in volunteering at Al Noor, call the centre.
Where to find more support for people with special needs in Dubai
Senses Residential and Day Care Centre
Senses takes care of children and young adults with severe physical and learning difficulties and offers 24-hour and residential care.
Senses Centre, Umm Suqeim 3, www.sensescentre.com (04 394 8765).
Dubai Centre for Special Needs
This school for people with special needs offers education services, and a variety of therapies for children and young people.
DCSN, Al Safa, off Sheikh Zayed Road, www.dcsneeds.com (04 344 0966).
Dubai Autism Center
This facility offers diagnosis services and family support as well as therapies and education for children with autism.
Dubai Autism Centre, Al Jaffiliya, www.dubaiautismcentre.ae (04 398 6862).