By Mudassir Raja
HOPE Qatar, a centre for the differently-abled children, recently held its Annual Sports Day at American School of Doha (ASD), where parents and audience cheered the participating children.
Students with different intellectual and physical disabilities demonstrated the true spirit of sportsmanship by taking part in different sport competitions that tested their speed, balance, focus, and agility. The sports included athletics, running races, obstacle races, a relay race, balling, and a game of throwing small sand bags into circles from a certain distance. The event further included different sport competitions for the parents and the volunteers from the ASD. The event also included social activities such as dancing.
Organised jointly with the athletics club of American School of Doha, this year’s sports day was sponsored by BYTP Qatar and was attended by Jummah Ismail al-Boeinein, former director of administration at Qatar Petroleum, as the chief guest. He is also the patron of Help, Opportunity, Participation, and Education (HOPE) Qatar centre.
In his address after the prize distribution ceremony, Jummah urged the students and parents to leave no stone unturned in bringing out the best in themselves, irrespective of their differential abilities.
David Farmer, athletic activity director of the ASD, was a special guest. He expressed his happiness and said that a large number of ASD students had volunteered for the sports day to organise it jointly with the HOPE Qatar team.
Dr Ciby Mathew, director of HOPE Qatar, in her speech thanked the parents for their involvement in the development of their children beyond the classrooms, and encouraged them to never give up. She also said that HOPE Qatar will soon open up admissions to ensure that more students will benefit from the impactful programme that the centre offers.
Talking to Community, Dr Ciby said, “HOPE Qatar is like a large family. Relationships and bonds formed here go beyond the call of duty. It’s more like that between parents and their own children.”
“In spite of sustainability challenges, HOPE Qatar has held on to its not-for-profit value system. Our fees are still among the lowest in Qatar compared to other special education centres and we are not running this centre to make money out of it. It is the impact on the lives of each child that matters the most to us.”
Dr Rajeev Thomas, founder and member of the HOPE advisory board, said, “I started HOPE 12 years ago in Qatar together with the support of likeminded persons. When I came here 15 years ago, I realised that my eldest son Stevin Mathew, now 21 years old, did not have access to a meaningful and affordable special needs school. Seeing that there were many other parents in a similar situation, I founded HOPE as a not-for-profit centre. My wife, Dr Ciby Mathew, was assigned the responsibility to lead the academic programme as the director of the centre. She moved into becoming an educationist after giving up a lucrative medical profession. Over the years we have had great support from all embassies in Qatar and from various leaders of the Qatari and expatriate communities who have come to recognise the impactful programme that HOPE Qatar offers.”
“In limited class sizes with teacher-student ratio of 1:8, children with mild to moderate intellectual challenges and with manageable behavioural problems are offered admission based on a strict admission criteria. Individual Education Plans (IEP) are developed for each child under the careful consultation of special educator, therapists, teachers, and the director. HOPE provides its students with a near-school atmosphere. The students come to school in uniforms. They start their day with the school assembly and physical activities. After that they attend classes which includes a focused approach on Science, Technology, English and functional Mathematics (STEM discipline). Children with more profound challenges are provided intensive therapeutic attention,” he noted.
He said, “The impact that HOPE has on the lives of many children in Qatar is evident from the recent graduation ceremony. Some of our students completed their 10th and 12th grade exams through the Indian National Open Schooling System. Some others completed their diplomas in computer applications through exams conducted by a centre in Qatar. HOPE is currently exploring placement opportunities for some of its senior students with a view of making them self-sufficient and putting them on the path of independent life.”
The founder further said, “HOPE admits students of ages three to 20 from all nationalities. The early intervention programme caters to the youngest children, whereas others are placed into junior, intermediate, and senior classes based on their intellectual ages.
“After a gap of few years, HOPE is currently opening up for admissions with a view of doubling our capacity from 25 students to 50 students.”
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