Dubai beauty queen inspires youth of determination

Mrs Universe Dubai 2021, Pamala Serena Rull, with youth at Special Needs Future Development Centre in Al Mankool, Dubai
Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Youth of determination recently enjoyed an inspirational visited by the reigning Mrs Universe Dubai 2021, Pamala Serena Rull.

Dressed as a princess, Pamala, the Ambassador for Peace, interacted with the youth at Special Needs Future Development Centre (SNF) in Al Mankool in Dubai. Wearing a gown by Dar Sara Fashion Dubai, Pamala was seen in her crown and sache, specially for the occasion.

Pamala strongly believes in equality and her visit conveyed a message. “We are all equal and every person should have the right to live a normal life,” she said.

Support for children of determination should continue after studies, Pamala added.

“There are many centres that accommodate [children of determination] until graduation, but what happens to them after that? They stay home and [no longer follow a] routine, have no activities and fall into depression. SNF is a centre for young adults that still have a place to go after graduation and that’s important so that every person can continue to have a normal routine.”

Pamala says support for children of determination should continue after studies
Image Credit: Supplied

About the centre

SNF is a specialised learning development and training facility in Dubai that provides individualised training programmes and support to young adults with special needs. The centre stresses the need to work together — as learners, parents, therapists, teachers, learning support professionals, and the wider Dubai community — to maximise each student’s full potential.

SNF was established in April 2007 to provide a dedicated place to help young adults with special needs to facilitate their lifelong learning and development.

Today, the center caters to 34 students, from the age of 14 and above, who are offered professional and personalised care for their overall development. As “the only centre in Dubai that provides training to young adults with special needs without restricting the upper age limit”, SNF aims to integrate as many young adults with special needs into the workforce.

They have a wide range of special needs training programmes, including behaviour modification, speech therapy, special education, reading and writing, art and computer and recreational activities. The centre has a variety of specialists from various disciplines: special educators, therapists and volunteers. The therapists specialise in speech, occupational, vocational, education and physiotherapy.

Filling a void

The center fills a vital void in the special needs community by accepting students after they graduate from other special needs schools.

“We do our best to help our students achieve their full physical and mental potential, easing integration into the workplace and larger community,” a statement from them said.

The centre works with young adults who suffer from mild variations of special needs. “Students must retain mobility and must be physically independent. Our strong volunteer base of more than 1500 members, including teenagers, young adults, retired school teachers, among others, help organise classroom activities, field trips, coordinate events amongst other duties.”

Daily tasks

Students at the centre are taught to master daily tasks like ironing, how to make their beds, folding laundry, brushing teeth, cleaning the kitchen and using a computer. “We have a well-equipped gym, specialised exercise programmers to assist with mobility limitations. We organise outings in the local community to urge students to participate in social activities,” the centre said in a statement.

Joining the workforce

The centre’s mission is to create a support network for families of individuals with special needs by offering psychological, emotional, social, educational and vocational guidance. “

We encourage students to prepare for job placements in the UAE. Students have received on the job trainings at offices such as Clifford Chance, a leading international law firm, The One and Jenny Flowers and have received employment opportunities at organisations such as Splash, Daga Life Sciences, Citymax Hotels, in the vocational department of the centre.

How it all began

What started in 2003 as a support group became the SNF Development Centre in 2007. It has evolved into a fully staffed development centre spread across 16 rooms, with 38 students, 15 teachers and 10 assisting employees.

The centre caters to all students from 14 years of age without restricting the upper age limit. Safia Bari, the director of the centre, has painstakingly built SNF to excel in integrating individuals with special-needs into mainstream society, as self-reliant and enthused individuals. The endeavour is to identify the emotional and social needs of each individual and provide them with opportunities to achieve their maximum potential so as to integrate them into the world around them.

The focus is also to make them self-reliant through therapy, practical training in daily living skills, and through an educational plan designed to suit their individual abilities and needs.

Meet the director

Safia Bari

Safia Bari came to Dubai in the early 80’s and began her career as a school teacher. Her life had changed drastically when her first daughter, Nusrat, was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy. She took long to understand that her daughter had special needs and needed to be treated differently.

A life-changing moment occurred when she chanced upon meeting a parent at her daughter’s school who had twins with special needs and were visibly more difficult to manage than Nusrat. Even then the mother of those twins appeared to be so happy and content that Safia Bari was motivated towards deep introspection. She remembered the quote, “I cried because I had no shoes until I saw a person who had no feet”.

Turning point

It marked the turning point in her life and she realised how important it was to be thankful in all circumstances. She realised that “children with special needs were blessed, who lived their lives without prejudice, jealousy or evil intent. They were amongst the purest of thought and if given a chance would only spread joy and happiness around.”

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