Ali Al Ameri during his work at Pappa Roti Boutique in Dubai. The 17-year-old says he is proud of his work. - Supplied photo
Dubai - Customers and co-workers are fond of him because he is always brimming with an irresistible smile.
Ali Al Ameri, 17, is born with Down syndrome (DNS) but he doesn't let his disability put his dreams down. His daily schedule is packed with activities: School in the morning and work in the afternoon. He's a good swimmer and goes to gym on most days of the week. He earns his own money to finance his passion (photography) and to save some for his future business and marriage.
Khaleej Times visited him recently at his workplace at Pappa Roti Boutique in Emirates Towers. Looking dapper and stylish in his uniform, Ali welcomes guests to the café. He carries with him the menu, takes orders from the guests and serves them their food and drinks.
Customers and co-workers are fond of him because he is always brimming with an irresistible smile. Ali says he's proud of his work and he loves serving people.
"I feel happy when I serve people. I talk to customers and give what they want. I serve them tea, karak chai, buns, fresh juice, cakes," Ali tells Khaleej Times.
"But I want to see again Sheikh Hamdan and I want to serve him the best tea," he adds gleefully.
Sheikh Hamdan with Ali during the launch of My Community... A City for Everyone in 2013.
Ali is talking about Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, whom he met in 2013 during the launch of "My Community... A City for Everyone".
The initiative was aimed at "turning Dubai into a friendly city for People of Determination by 2020 through projects and initiatives that promote their participation and inclusion in the community". Ali served as the face to reinforce the campaign.
Since then, he demonstrated that with positive reinforcement, obstacles can be eliminated to make people of determination capable members of society.
Ali, who is turning 18 on June 4, is the youngest child of Iraqi expats who migrated to the UAE in 1998. He is a typical millennial teenager who loves sport, with swimming being on top of his list. He also like playing football and he loves photography (he and some friends with DNS will be holding soon a group photo exhibition).
He dutifully follows a well-organised routine everyday: Wakes up at 7.30am, shower, then eat breakfast before going to school at Rashid Centre for the Determined Ones in Al Barsha. He leaves school at 1pm, goes home to eat lunch and takes a nap, then goes to work at 3.30pm where he stays for two hours. He works every day except on Fridays. He goes to gym or swimming pool on alternate days and he ends his day at 11pm.
Ali says he simply loves to work. "I enjoy my work and I'm proud of it. People my age should be productive."
"Someday I want to put up my own café or car wash business. I also save money for my future marriage," he adds with pride.
A dedicated workerIn school, Ali experienced on-the-job-trainings at Rotana Hotel and Patchi, where he did clerical work and customer service, respectively.
Rasha AlDanhani, owner and chairperson of the Pappa Roti Group where Ali works, speaks highly of Ali's professionalism and dedication to work. "He is a special boy. He is extremely talented and a responsive person and he will only get better if we as a society make him feel like he is an important part of us," she says.
"People like Ali shouldn't be looked at like they are any different from us - they need to feel confident, comfortable and blend in our society. Only if we give them the opportunity that they deserve, we will witness how amazing they really are," she adds.
"In my own experience, once you give them the opportunity, it is most important to keep motivating and encouraging them and giving them constant support. Teaching them basic manners and etiquette is the first step. The next is finding out what their interests and likings are and making them do things in their area of interest or what they are good at will keep them attentive and interested. It does take an effort but it is absolutely worth it, seeing them happy and smiling," AlDanhani underlines.