Dubai: Meet these people of determination who are forging a new way of life

From interacting with royalty and welcoming guests, they dream of becoming a shuttle bus driver or an astronaut


Nasreen Abdulla

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Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied

Published: Sat 18 Nov 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 19 Nov 2023, 6:16 PM

For 21-year-old Sebastian Nevaro from Argentina, this year’s AccessAbilities Expo in October was an unforgettable experience. As a person of determination, he was chosen to welcome guests at a stand at the exhibition and he got the opportunity to interact with several ministers. However, the icing on the cake was when he met and spoke to Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, CEO and founder of Emirates Group.

“Receiving a lot of people at the expo that day was exciting for me,” he said. “I was quite nervous when I met the Sheikh. He was very nice and then I wasn’t nervous anymore. He was very friendly and asked me many questions. He was very happy when I said thank you so much for taking care of our city.”

Sebastian Nevaro (right).
Sebastian Nevaro (right).

Sebastian is a member of Sanad Village, one of the region’s largest centre dedicated to understanding autism and other related disorders. Apart from offering elementary and vocational training, it also provides medical therapy and counseling support. Located in Sustainable City, the centre accepts students of all ages and abilities.

Sebastian, who has been a student at the centre for a while, has managed to complete an internship at global consulting firm BCG and was at the expo as an extension of his vocational training to help him get into the workplace. Dreaming of becoming a shuttle bus driver and graphic designer, Sebastian has already got his licence for electrical cars.

Touching Lives

According to Jade Butler-Rees, Vocational Programme Director at Sanad Village, the institute manages to touch the lives of its students. “Sanad Village works with people of determination from diagnosis and right across the lifespan,” she said. “The team at Sanad create individualised programmes for each of our students to build on their strengths and help to transition them towards independence.”

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She said that the centre does not follow a one-size-fits-everyone cookie cutter approach. Instead, it discovers students' passions and talents and help them to develop these. “Our programmes are underpinned by the science of Applied Behaviour Analysis and involve a multidisciplinary team of specialists who work together to target various aspects of our students' development,” she said. “We also identify barriers to their learning and inclusion and develop programmes to overcome these barriers.

The result of their work was evident at the expo where several of their students met and interacted with visitors all day long.

Jack Rae (centre).
Jack Rae (centre).

Jack Rae, who has amazing skills in Math and memory was part of the welcoming team of students, also made fresh juice for visitors. According to him, he loved being a student at Sanad Village. “I have learned more about sports, woodwork, music and Math,” he said. “I have the best teachers. They helped me to be better at some of my work and I can show people my talents.” The 17-year-old dreams of becoming an astronaut one day.

Jack Rae (left).
Jack Rae (left).


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