A Dubai-based support group has been established to help mums with children of determination to connect with each other and to take some time out to focus on their own wellbeing. The dedicated community has been created as a sub-group of the 5000-strong network, Coffee with an Expat (CWAE), which provides a space for women to meet-up, build connections, network, engage in meaningful conversations and share their experiences of expat life.
Formed by CWAE Founder, Navine Eldesouki, and Lebanese expat, Farah Sabbah, the People of Determination (P.O.D.) Moms group combines a program of educational workshops, inspirational guest speakers, and informal coffee mornings, to enable members and guests to learn, develop themselves, share their experiences, and find support among likeminded women.
Navine explained, “Caring for people of determination came up during one of our discussion sessions at CWAE and it seemed that, while there is a lot of support for the kids, there are few spaces where mums can meet-up and take some time out. Farah’s initiative to set up a specific group aligned with our mission at CWAE, and the response among members has shown the need for this dedicated space.”
With a background in English language education and a PhD in applied linguistics, Farah came to the UAE in 2021. Revealing her own motivation for starting the group, she said, “My eldest son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at the age of two-and-a-half and over the past eight years we have been on a journey as mother and son. When I moved to Dubai, I recognised the need to connect with other people on the same journey, to learn from them and also to give back to a community that has helped me.”
Explaining the challenges and how the P.O.D. group can provide support to mums, Farah said, “A child’s diagnosis affects every aspect of a mother’s life and can lead to depression and mental health issues, which is not good for the parent or the child. As mothers we need to be able to overcome the sense of grief and change our mindset to be accepting of the diagnosis and embrace life’s different plan, but this can be difficult when you’re caught up in the bubble of caring for a child of determination.”
She continued, “The group aims to provide the support for mums to grow their confidence and build a positive energy to live a meaningful life. This starts with creating a space where they can focus on themselves, do things outside of caring for their child, and prioritise their own mental health and wellbeing; to thrive, not just simply survive. By taking that time and space, they are also better equipped both mentally and physically to look after the needs of their child.”
With a diverse membership of women from different cultures and backgrounds who are caring for children with a wide range of diagnoses, participants in the group have the opportunity to learn from alternative perspectives and draw strength and inspiration from the humbling stories of likeminded mums. Many of the group’s events are open to both members and non-members and address relatable themes such as grief and dealing with negative emotions.
Moving from Kenya to Dubai last year, Giselle Maidou has found support from the group in facing the day-to-day challenges of caring for a child of determination. She revealed, “At first there was a sense of relief that I was not alone in this journey, and that there are other women facing the same worries for their child and their future. Meeting the mums in this group has given me some valuable insights on navigating life, particularly as my son gets older, as well as helping me to build the courage to advocate for people of determination in wider society.”
Fellow member and Czech expat, Radunka Rudebaugh, added, “As a mum of a child with special needs, you feel lonely, like your everyday life is very different from the life of other mums. My friends listen to me, but when they say, ‘I understand’ or ‘I know how you feel’, it is not the same as when a mum with a special needs child says it. By listening to their stories, they have inspired me, and given me hope. For me, the group is a breath of fresh air, shared by wonderful people. We listen, understand each other, share knowledge, laughter, and most importantly, support each other.”
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