‘I deserve a chance’: Dubai school canteen staffer with Down syndrome works towards dream job

He prepares the food trolley and delivers food orders to students and staff in classrooms


Sherouk Zakaria

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Published: Fri 22 Apr 2022, 2:17 PM

Last updated: Sat 23 Apr 2022, 9:25 PM

Mikey Buchan is back at the school where he studied - but this time he is in a different uniform - the work-clothes of a canteen staffer.

The 20-year-old British alumnus of GEMS World Academy – Dubai, with Down Syndrome, is part of the service staff of Slices, the school’s catering provider.

And he has big dreams - dreams of making it big in the catering and the food industry — dreams of working, of being independent, of getting married and having kids, of having his own car and house.

As we meet him, he is busy preparing the food trolley for delivering food orders to students and staff in classrooms. “After that, I prepare the pastry display part of the snack station in the school canteen, and I help the rest of the Slices team with selling food,” said Buchan, who never expected the first step in his professional life at the very school from where he graduated in December 2020.

For years, he has taken up voluntary opportunities to train for the workplace and joined ASDAN, a programme that provides courses for learners with special educational needs and disabilities.

Under the ASDAN course, he was the school’s photographer, an inventory clerk and finally a library assistant at the school.

Using this experience, he secured a volunteering opportunity at the Old Library in Dubai from January 2020 to December 2021. His highlight was volunteering at Expo 2020 where he worked as part of the customer management team in the Papua New Guinea pavilion.

With ambitions to become a manager at McDonald’s, Buchan said he is using his current position at Slices to learn the skills of the trade for his dream job. “I am currently learning about maintaining food hygiene and cleanliness, following instructions and carrying out tasks, remembering orders and delivering them to the right classrooms,” said Buchan.

Teamwork, social and communication skills, punctuality and working independently are some key traits he’s learning on the job. “I am benefiting from being in a work routine, communicating with different people, getting used to the expectations of a workplace, and being given different tasks to do.”

He added, “I hope my job at Slices will help me to get paid work in the near future.”

Dream of independence

As a young adult, Buchan does not believe his condition should define him. He hopes to find a place in the labour market and prove his abilities and skills. “I am lucky to have had several voluntary work experiences that I have enjoyed, and from which I have benefited greatly. However, I have applied for various paid jobs, but have not yet been successful.

“I have the skills to be able to do those jobs if given the chance, and I would be happy to work for free until I prove that I can do the job as well as anyone else,” he said.

His dream, Buchan said, is to become independent. “I would like to have a wife and family, and have my own house and car.”

He was full of joy and excitement at being back to his school. “It’s great to see my friends and teachers again. I am happy to be back at my old school where I’m always learning to be better — whether as a student or a professional,” said Buchan.


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