Dubai: A UAE resident, who was paralysed in a horrific road accident 14 years ago, is now a top-notch attorney and is all set to take up a fellowship at the prestigious Harvard University Kennedy School of Government under the Emirates Leadership Initiative.
Sharing his inspiring story with XPRESS, Emirati Abdulla Al Jefri, 34, said he had come a long way since August 25, 2003, when his speeding 4X4 was smashed to smithereens after it rammed into a palm tree in the capital. The accident left him paralysed with a broken left leg and hip.
“I was 21 and was driving at great speed like many youngsters do. Little did I realise that my life would be crippled in a fraction of a second,” he recalled.
Al Jefri, who was studying electrical engineering at the Petroleum Institute at the time, was forced to quit as he spent the next month and a half at an Al Ain hospital, where he underwent two surgeries. Over the next four years, he went under the knife four more times and enrolled in a rigorous physiotherapy programme in Munich, Germany, in order to get back on his feet.
The accident took a huge toll on me physically and emotionally. It set me thinking. I was grateful for a second chance.”
- Abdulla Al Jefri, Government Attorney Headed to Harvard
“Initially, doctors told me I could never walk again. But by the end of my treatment, I had proved them wrong.” While that was by no means an easy task, the ordeal taught Al Jefri two valuable life lessons: never to speed on the roads and never to give up in the face of adversity.
“The accident took a huge toll on me physically and emotionally. My family went through undue suffering and the government spent so much on my treatment. It set me thinking about my future. I was grateful for a second chance and decided to make the most of it,” said Al Jefri.
He said he started looking for a job and could manage an entry-level administrative post at the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department. “This was in June 2009. With no educational qualifications, I could not hope for a higher post. But I was thankful as it was a great eye-opener. It made me want to study law and I vowed to myself that I would one day graduate from the best law school ever at Harvard.”
The first step in the long journey was to get an undergraduate degree, which he did from Al Ain University with flying colours. Soon, he entrolled for a Masters degree in International Law at the Paris Sorbonne University in Abu Dhabi.
Simultaneously, he was also accepted by the Abu Dhabi Judicial Academy where he made a mark for himself.
“In June 2014, I became a government attorney, a post that I still hold today. By the next summer, I completed the Masters programme too,” said Al Jefri, who also got married and raised a family while he pursued his studies. “It was amazing how I began from scratch and made a turnaround in a span of six years. I realised nothing is impossible.”
But the Harvard dream was yet to be fulfilled. Al Jefri said he got in touch with counsellors at the educational consultancy Hale Education Group and apprised them of his goal.
“They helped me with my CV, essays and networking with those who mattered at top universities in the US. Three years on, I was accepted by Columbia University in New York. It is part of the Ivy League, but it still fell short of my dream. So I did not join the university.”
He said the persistence paid off and he eventually got selected for the Harvard programme. “If it had not been for Hale, I would not have made it here. Though I had the experience and credentials, they helped me make the cut.”
Peter Davos, founder and CEO of Hale Education Group, said, “We’ve been walking with Abdulla Al Jefri hand-in-hand over four years to make his dream a reality.” He said Hale helped him identify the right programme and ensured the supplementary educational and enrichment inputs were in place. It also provided intensive coaching at every stage of the application process. Al Jefri, who starts the Harvard programme mid-June, said, “With a clear vision and defined goal, success is certain. It also takes a lot of sacrifice, hard work and confidence to achieve what you want.”