UAE: How a kind gesture from Sheikh Mohammed helped this woman care for her 'special family' of 132

Nadia Al Sayegh runs a non-profit residential care facility for low-income families who have children with special needs

by

Nasreen Abdulla

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Photo: M. Sajjad/KT
Photo: M. Sajjad/KT

Published: Mon 28 Aug 2023, 6:55 PM

Last updated: Mon 28 Aug 2023, 10:12 PM

When Emirati educator Nadia Al Sayegh quit her job in the Ministry of Social Affairs in 2004, she had just one dream — to provide a non-profit residential care facility to low-income families who have children with special needs.

Photo: M. Sajjad/KT
Photo: M. Sajjad/KT

With this intention, she started Senses Residential home in a villa in Jumeirah.


Barely able to cover the costs, Nadia and her 'family' were asked to vacate the premises. When dragging all her furniture out of the villa, Nadia had no idea what to do or where to go next.

Standing with all doors shut, she got an unexpected visitor — His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.


While on a regular drive, Sheikh Mohammed spotted Nadia standing in front of a villa. Curious as to why an Emirati woman was moving furniture, he came to investigate. On hearing her story, he immediately contributed a piece of land to her and later built a daycare centre and residential care facility.

Today, the centre hosts 132 students from the ages of 3 to 52 years, of which 98 are residents.

Photo: M. Sajjad/KT
Photo: M. Sajjad/KT

Emirati Women’s Day event

On Emirati Women’s Day, the centre hosted a special event to honour Emirati women of determination for their achievements.

Some of the inhabitants took to the stage to sing songs, while others performed skits. One youngster along with a partner performed a drumming session. Others clapped, cheered, and howled with happiness as their friends performed in front of an audience. Many of them were dressed in their finest clothes and wore jewellery for the occasion.

Photo: M. Sajjad/KT
Photo: M. Sajjad/KT
Photo: M. Sajjad/KT
Photo: M. Sajjad/KT
Photo: M. Sajjad/KT
Photo: M. Sajjad/KT
Photo: M. Sajjad/KT
Photo: M. Sajjad/KT
Photo: M. Sajjad/KT
Photo: M. Sajjad/KT
Photo: M. Sajjad/KT
Photo: M. Sajjad/KT
Photo: M. Sajjad/KT
Photo: M. Sajjad/KT
Photo: M. Sajjad/KT
Photo: M. Sajjad/KT

“They have been practicing for more than two weeks,” said a spokesperson. “They were very excited to perform, and I think they did extremely well.”

A safe space

For Nadia, who has over 40 years of experience working with children and families with special needs, the main aim is to create a safe space for those who don’t have anyone else to turn to.

“There are people who have been with me for almost 20 years,” said Nadia, speaking to Khaleej Times. “We are completely non-profit, and I try to open the centre to those who need it the most. Some children get abandoned when a divorce happens and neither parent want to care for the child. There are some cases where a mother has five children of determination. In this case, I take two or three so she can focus on the remaining.”

Currently, the centre has over 250 people on its waiting list. “I am trying to take the cases of those who have no chance of being admitted into other centres,” she said. “Like those who have severe diseases or are orphans and have nowhere else to go. So, we take them on a priority basis.”

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