Abu Dhabi: Born with cerebral palsy and being restricted to a wheelchair didn’t stop Fatma Al Jassim from dreaming big. She wanted to do everything that most youngsters of her age did — sports, adventure and excellence in academics, too.
It was always going to be an uphill task but giving her support at every step was her mother — Khawla Al Sumaiti.
The 45-year-old mother had graduated in 1989, but she went to the extent of enrolling herself in the public secondary school to encourage her daughter. The end result was indeed remarkable. Fatma passed out with flying colours bagging an impressive 96 percentage in literature. Her mother too hogged the limelight by scoring 94 per cent.
“I just wanted to encourage my daughter and for that I wanted to be with her all the way. I had graduated from high school more than 20 years ago. Nevertheless, I decided to enrol again and we both studied together,” said an elated mother, Al Sumaiti.
Fatma recollected her early days of struggle at school saying, “I have been to two schools; one was government, and the other was a private one. However, neither one of these understood my needs,” said the 20-year-old.
Fatma then decided to change the system on her own and made her home an institution.
“I had to do something because schools were of no help and then I decided it was better for me to pursue my education from home. It was tough because the atmosphere at school and home has a vast difference. However, I wanted to challenge myself as I have always done in the past,” recalls Fatma, who was honoured for her feat at a ceremony recently in Abu Dhabi and was attended by Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
“The success I have reached today goes to my mother who was very supportive from the beginning. Even though my social circle is small, it means everything to me. There were a few who backed me all through and I want to thank them as well,” said Fatma, who has now set her sights on studying psychology.
“I consider this moment as my beginning point and I want to motivate people around me with my accomplishment and want to offer more to society,” said Fatma, who strongly believes that learning psychology would help her better understand people with special needs.
“I want to help people with disabilities and their parents so they could get rid of the obstacles that they would encounter in their way. I want them to stand on their own feet and make everyone watch in awe,” says Fatma, who had earlier shot to fame in 2015 by becoming the first physically challenged girl to do a Skydive.
Then too, Fatma had to fight her way to realise her dream of jumping off a plane. And after four years of persuasion in 2015, the doors of Skydive Dubai opened for her.
“Yes, that was my goal then and I got determined after they shooed me away several times,” recalls Fatma adding, “I don’t blame them as they were also concerned about my safety and well-being. They had their rules and no one would like to take a risk of this kind even though you have a skydiver to do all the manoeuvring with you. Anyways, I achieved that dream after garnering support on social media. You have to keep setting new targets in life at every point and I want to lead by example,” she said.
— Omnia Fahim is a trainee with Gulf News