Ali Mahmoud Aljenibi (second from left) watches as a child receives a gift at Al Noor Centre Image Credit: Supplied

ABU DHABI: An Abu Dhabi-based Emirati has launched a non-profit initiative to raise awareness about Down syndrome and help people with the congenital disorder integrate into society.

Ali Mahmoud Aljenibi, 24, said he was prompted to start the support group called Mkanii Benhm (My place between them) after seeing the plight of his teenage brother Abdullah who has Down syndrome.

“It pained me to see him struggle to make friends and interact with people so I decided to do something about it,” recalled Aljenibi.

Since its launch last year, nearly 50 people have registered with the group and the numbers are constantly rising.

“I am glad that I am able to provide a platform where Down syndrome’s people can have their say and be heard. We hold weekly meetings where participants share their concerns, fears and experiences,” said Aljenibi.

“Their most recent event was last Thursday when children suffering from Down syndrome were taken to Al Forsan International sport resort where they spent the day riding horses and taking part in various fun-filled activities.

On the occasion of Down Syndrome Day (March 21), Mkanii conducted special workshops at Al Noor Special Needs Centre in Abu Dhabi. “The children were given colouring and drawing books and also treated to a game of bowling. Towards the end they were given gifts,” he said.

Intellectual impairment

Down syndrome arises from a chromosome defect causing intellectual impairment and physical abnormalities including short stature and a broad facial profile. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 700 babies born in the world have the disorder.

“Sadly, not many people in the UAE know about Down syndrome as there is little awareness about it,” said Aljenibi.

Mkanii Benhm also grants the wishes of people suffering from Down syndrome.

“My brother Abdulla had a dream to star in a film. So our group members made a short movie with him in the lead,” said Aljenibi.

Similarly Emirati Humaid Aljasmi, 8, who wanted to go on a shopping spree before travelling to the USA for medical treatment was taken to Sahara Centre in Sharjah where he was gifted toys.

Aljenibi also recalled an instance when the support group arranged a professional photographer to assist three special needs girls who wanted to learn photography.

Recently, the Mkanii team took some children to visit cancer patients at Al Ain’s Tawam hospital. “The idea was to expose them to different situations,” said Aljenibi.