First Summer Program for Handicapped Children [Archives:2001/39/Reportage]
Nada Mansour Al-Shamiri
We all know about the suffering of handicapped children, who demand nothing but to be treated as humans. What the physically and mentally handicapped children lack is the ability to learn some practical skills to maintain themselves properly. Thus, they need a special training in order to acquire the required communication skills they need to gain self-confidence and to get rid of irrational fears. Likewise, they have the right to inquire about their rights and duties within their family and society, since these two entities should render care to them and empower them to be able to assume an active role in the development process. Consequently, handicapped children are entitled to have access to education, to practice their hobbies, to live a normal life and to be productive individuals in society.
This call is voiced by nearly all the physically and mentally handicapped people without the exclusion of any single segment of them. All of them hope to live a normal and a decent life depending on their own abilities to earn their livelihood. The Coordination Board for Yemeni NGOs is one of the entities responding to the call of handicapped children through organizing the first program for handicapped children nationwide. The program aims at enhancing cooperation among the different bodies involved in rendering care to handicapped children in Yemen, on the one hand, and integrating handicapped children with their non-handicapped brothers through organizing an orientation program for this end, on the other. Similarly, the program aims at introducing handicapped children to society and introducing them to the organizations and societies supporting them. The program played a significant role in providing handicapped children with valuable information on different disciplines and also gave them the opportunity to make wise use of the summer vacation.
Wajeha Mohammed Qarhash, coordinator of the program said that the preparations for the program started in mid-June and that the aforementioned committee was elected from the societies interested in taking part in this program. The second meeting was held at the premises of Radda Barnen, a Swedish organization deeply involved in rendering care to the handicapped in Yemen, with the view of working out the summer camp. We decided to find a place close to the Physically Handicapped Society, so as to facilitate the transport of computers, typewriters and some sports materials to the location of the camp. The executive committee of the program consists of Wajeha Qarhash, coordinator of the program, Muna al-Ghashmi of al-Aman Association for Blind Females, Khaled al-Haimi from the Physically Handicapped Society, Mohammed al-Faqih from the Orphanage Care House and Bashir al-Bahluli from the Deaf & Dumb Society.
Al-Qalam Model School was chosen to be the location of the camp, due to the availability of a spacious area within its grounds, which is a necessity for holding the camp. The program included trips, field visits and classroom activities chosen by the children themselves, and the participants were divided into three groups according to their ages. Moreover, the weekly assessment plan was made by the children, teachers, and administration and as a pilot project the persons in charge of the program expressed their concerns on how to gather children with different disabilities in one classroom and how to deal with the administrative team.
Some of the general objectives of the program are to entrust each society with a particular program such as the one adopted by al-Aman Association for Blind Females which mostly focused on training on typing. Similarly, different activities were included in the program such as cultural information classrooms, sports activities and theatrical performances which aim at discovering talented children. Since this is the first program of its kind in Yemen, it was natural to face many obstacles, particularly the issues related to discipline, food provision, and transportation. Likewise, there have been many problems pertaining to the delay in implementing the program and not completing some activities due to the short span of the program. However, the program has many positive aspects, despite the existence of some sensitivities among the participant societies since the teachers and children were able to work closely without any problem. The program has come out with many recommendations, underlining the importance of establishing close contact between the participants after the program, creating a special premise for hosting the different meetings and activities of these children, attaching care to the talented handicapped children and conveying their views to the concerned authorities.
The concluding party was attended by Ali Salleh, Deputy Minster of Social Affairs for the Development Sector, Nassir Mohammed Humaid Chairman of Yemeni Federation for NGOs, Trigvie Nickle regional representative of the Sweden-based Radda Barnen, Khaled Assal Program Officer of the Swedish Organization for Child Care in Yemen, chairmen of the societies, and the children along with their guardians.
The concluding party began with a recitation of the Holy Quran followed by a welcoming word delivered by Wajeha Qarhash, Director of the center in which she briefed the audience on the objectives and the idea of the program. The participant children then welcomed the attendants by a song expressing their happiness to take part at the program. Dr. Mohammed Humaid then delivered the word of the attendants in which he spoke on behalf of the federation which was founded in June, 2000. Dr. M. Humaid talked about the importance of having qualified handicapped people who can earn their livelihood independently, adding that the federation has created a special department for children and women so as to assume monitoring the issues related to children and women. Thus, the federation will attach importance to the major problems facing the handicapped, especially legislation that has to do with the handicapped. Dr. Mohammed expressed his thanks to Radda Barnen, the Swedish organization which exerts great efforts to assist the handicapped in Yemen and takes part in the demining program. Thereafter, different students showed their abilities, everyone in his respective field like Quran recitation, painting and typing.
The active participation of the children was one of the most important evidences of the success of this program, which was very rich in its diverse parts. All the participants came out happy with what the program has achieved.