As I rode to the Future Centre for Special Needs (FCSN) on my first day of volunteering, I thought about the children I was about to meet, about everything that I wanted to say to them, and about how to behave. I had no idea what my role was to be, or even if I would be in direct contact with the children. Ultimately, I didn't know whether I should treat them in a special way because of their "special needs." But throughout my first day, my uncertainty turned to realization as I began interacting with a class of girls aged six to 15.
The girls are not only creative, they are also self-sufficient, and since that first day in October 2012 — despite the many hours we've spent together — I've been continually amazed and moved by how openly and confidently they interact with their environment.
Housed in a newly constructed building about 40 minutes outside the city of Abu Dhabi, the Future Centre for Special Needs equips individuals with the necessary knowledge and skills to enable them to realize their full potential in a safe, secure, and stimulating environment. The Centre is full of life and energy, with sounds ringing out of kids at the swimming pool and singing in class.
In helping the girls overcome the daily challenges that they face, I not only have a constant source of inspiration, but I feel a great sense of joy and responsibility.
The Centre clearly puts a lot of effort into ensuring that their students are well integrated into their environment and while classes follow a structured educational program, the students are encouraged to show their creative sides. Indeed, the girls are highly creative and their classroom is decorated with many colorful drawings. I am astonished by the students' artistic approaches to what they study in school.
I decided to volunteer at the FCSN because I'd never before had the opportunity to work with special needs children. In helping the girls overcome the daily challenges that they face, I not only have a constant source of inspiration, but I feel a great sense of joy and responsibility. I have learned a lot from these young girls, including the discovery that I can be very patient and understanding.
While my role is to sing, play, and help guide the students through their projects and activities, I am spontaneous and treat them like any other kids. I do not want to make them feel that they are helpless or dependent. In fact, this is the message that the Centre wants to convey to the girls and everyone around them. Besides the fact that the students are young and need adult supervision, I do not think that they need my help. I believe I am actually the one who needs their help because they give me a reason to wake up every Monday and feel excited to learn something new.