Reaching you is now in its sixth year. How did it all begin?
Delphine and I, have two children, Rio and Tia. Rio has severe special needs, with a rare chromosome disorder, and he attends school at Rashid Paediatric Therapy Centre, Dubai. We have worked in the world of health and fitness for over 17 years, and lived in Dubai for 15 years. So, our personal experiences and our line of work inspired us to create reaching you, which was formed in 2006. The mission of the reaching you programme is to bring awareness, integration and acceptance of children with special needs into the community of the UAE.
Also, we wanted to create a fun, positive and innovative concept to promote health and fitness for children with special needs too, while providing them with opportunities to gain new life skills and experiences, thus guiding them towards a more productive, healthier, independent, and enjoyable life. reaching you is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for children with special needs and their families throughout Dubai and the UAE.
You’ve brought beach-friendly wheelchairs to Dubai and now run weekly beach sessions for special needs children, run by volunteers. Tell us more about that.
The reaching you ‘Beach Blast’ programme is all about bringing groups of children (with and without special needs) together, by having fun exercise sessions on the open beach. Through generous donations, reaching you was able to purchase six specialized floating wheelchairs for use on the beach and in the sea. We then started a free, beach group exercise programme for all kids, so that regardless of their ability levels, they could all exercise and have fun together. Many main stream schools got involved with the programme as either participants or volunteers. Some of the older children and young adults with special needs came along to volunteer and help as well with the younger children.
We’ve recently had a break, but we used to hold the sessions at Jumierah Public Beach on alternate Thursday afternoons. After the summer we plan to resume the programme again, so watch this space!
What challenges have you faced while running reaching you?
I have to be completely honest and say we haven’t faced any challenges or obstacles. If anything, we have been overwhelmed by people’s generosity, good hearts and their wanting to get involved. So many people want to know more - from both the special needs and non special needs communities. Children particularly (of all abilities) have been a true inspiration to us in the way they have integrated together. There have been no awkward barriers. They have all just got in there and been children together. It’s been truly beautiful, because this has been our main goal.
Of course we are also very grateful to organizations, companies and individuals who have donated time or their services. Without them, we know all our activities would be near to impossible to run. Many people don’t comprehend why we don’t raise money at these events, but we’re not actually a charity. reaching you is about awareness, integration and having fun together. Too many things here are about money and we wanted to get away from that.
What plans do you have in the pipeline?
We always have many dreams of activities, adventures and events that we would like to do with reaching you. Anything that spreads the message of awareness and integration between the mainstream and the special needs communities here is what we’re all about. We held our annual Family Fun Day (our seventh) at the beginning of last month, and this year, we had to change venues to Zabeel Park because it has become so popular and the crowds are so big, which is brilliant!
In terms of future plans, we would like to do more social evenings for the parents of children with special needs - as a bit of time out for them would be great. A ‘siblings club’ is definitely needed too. We see this with our own daughter. Being the sibling of a child with special needs is an amazing experience in its own way, but can also come with issues. Families as a whole need more support here.
If you’d like to get involved as a volunteer in the reaching you community programmes, you can email Nick Watson on firstname.lastname@example.org