National Day in the life of a special lot

National Day in the life of a special lot

Special needs students of Zayed organisation show how to celebrate National Day in true Emirati spirit.

By Olivia Olarte-ulherr/senior Reporter

Published: Wed 26 Nov 2014, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 6:34 PM

Abdulla Alateqi (left) and Khalifa Alsuweidi (centre) with their handicrafts. -Supplied photos

Their faces beamed with joy and radiated with gratitude as students, teachers, staff, guests and volunteers at the Zayed Higher Organisation for Humanitarian Care and Special Needs (ZHO) celebrated the country’s unity on Tuesday.

For Hamda Al Mansouri, receptionist at the ZHO, December 2 is more than just the birth of her nation, it is also the day she was born. “I cannot explain in words how I feel as I was born on the same day as my country. When I see the city celebrating, there’s no need to celebrate my birthday,” said Hamda, who usually spends her special day at the Abu Dhabi Corniche watching the fireworks.

Despite being born with a hip problem, Hamda said she has much to be thankful for. Her government sent her to study in the US for three years, and now, parents of students at the ZHO look up to her for inspiration. “They wish for their baby to be like me, having work and a normal life,” she said.

Saeed Al Mansouri, 24, was a student at the ZHO and now works at the Emirates Red Crescent call centre. He was back at the ZHO to lend a hand to other special needs children. “If you really love your country, this is the way to express it,” he said, pointing to the jubilant atmosphere around him.

“They are all happy because they are empowered. I ... am in a wheelchair, yet I don’t feel sick, I am normal,” said the cheerful young man who was diagnosed with polio when he was just six years old.

The grounds of the ZHO was turned into a bazaar for the occasion with assorted local clothing, perfumeries, colourful accessories, traditional dishes and crafts by the students; ZHO agricultural produce; and Braille books on sale and display, while a programme with students reciting poems and singing about their beloved country took place on the makeshift stage.

Various competitions were also held including the most decorated wheelchair and car, while commemorative flags were distributed to family members of the students and guests who joined in the festivities.

Also invited to be a source of inspiration for the special day is Ali Aljassmii, a self-proclaimed adventurer whose exploits and feats were recorded and featured on his Instagram account and appreciated by many of his compatriots in the UAE and those in the Gulf region. “We are a happy society and we come here to bring happiness to everyone,” he said during a photo session with his fans.

Brothers Hamdan, 13, and Hamad, 12, both wearing their national dress, were among those who had a photo session with Ali.

Brothers Hamdan and Hamad

According to their mother Safa Issa, Hamdan has down syndrome and also wears a pacemaker which needs to be replaced every six years. But Hamdan, who follows his brother around, is an epitome of health. Safa said this is because Hamdan loves to dance and cycle.

“This is a special day for Emiratis and for me because this is our National Day and I belong here, and this feeling is experienced by all Emiratis,” Safa said.

More news from