Sharjah: Tucked away in Industrial Area 17, next to warehouses and offices, lies a centre that offers educational programmes for challenged individuals.
Although the centre has been operating for five years now and caters to up to 40 students that come from a financially modest background, it has reached a point where it can no longer run for free. Manzil, the centre for challenged children, has relied solely on corporate funds up till now.
"Most of the funding is corporate but since the global recession we have been very badly hit. If we do not get any funds soon we will have to take drastic measures, which includes letting some children go," says Dr Aisha Saeed Hussaini, Director of Manzil.
Despite having the responsibility of supporting 27 staff members, Manzil centre also offers a subsidy for students and offers up to 55 per cent in discount for fees.
"There are also some students who pay absolutely nothing, and while we cannot take the students out of the centre it is becoming a big drain. We are run by the heart and not with the head, and put the interest of our students first," said Dr Aisha, noting that the dominant disability for children is autism.
There are six classrooms, where qualified teachers conduct various educational programmes as well as academic programmes.
"The whole aim of the centre is to teach [the students how] to gain independence, such as how to make a sandwich, how to have a bath or make a phone call in a shopping centre," Dr Aisha said. They also learn of the importance of keeping a calculator in their pocket so they know the exact change to receive when making a purchase.
The centre caters to students from as young as four years old and has no age limit. One such student, who benefited from the centre, was a 22-year-old female student who stayed at the centre for two years.
"She was a slow learner but highly functional. We managed to get her a job at a bank but then all of a sudden everything went downhill."
The student got laid-off, her father had a heart attack and her mother had to take care of her younger brother who also had a learning disability.
"Her father, who ran a small bookstore, passed away suddenly and her mother had no formal education. The family had many visa problems and were also unable to return to their home country. So we managed to sponsor the family and give the eldest daughter a job at Manzil.
"We gave her mother a staff job and enrolled the younger son as a student in the centre because he had a strong disability and was unable to find employment.
"The mother did not want charity but to support her family, and we managed to give them a life with dignity where they could all earn their own income."
Such issues among students are not out of the ordinary and it is common for Manzil to lend families a hand purely for the well-being of the children. Another recent issue was with a family of four, whose father became unemployed but was reluctant to leave the country because the children were doing so well at the centre. "But now there is a mandate that we can no longer run this place for free, and the dilemma is where to put the children if our current financial situation should continue like this."
To raise the necessary funds, Manzil will be holding their annual concert that includes drumming, dancing and plays on May 5 at the Cultural Palace, located at the Quran Roundabout, at 5.30pm, under the theme, ‘Al Alwan Al Hayat [Colour of Life]'.
"Many parents at first thought the concerts were a waste of time but we teach them how to follow instructions and they learn through song and dance. The older ones are a little more involved in creating the costumes and the exercises they do are for specific areas of the brain.
We need more volunteers to commit with us, even if it's only for twice a week, so they can help us with organising our concerts, or helping us arrange the lights for plays."
Manzil will also soon hold an exhibition of jewellery created by the students and features their own designs.
Manzil can be contacted at: management@manzil .ae
- Account name: manzil
- Account number: 0030 203320 005 (for AED remittance)
- 0030 203320 060 (for USD remittance)
- Bank Sharjah Islamic Bank
- Swift code NBSHAEAS