Dubai's talent academy helps disabled children develop their skills

Each week, 30 children and young adults sing and perform drama at the Rising Stars academy

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A teacher in Dubai set up a talent academy to help disabled children and young adults develop their talents and skills.

Rahima Amiraly, 36, opened Rising Stars academy after teaching in the emirate's primary schools for eight years.

She felt children with disabilities and learning difficulties needed more opportunities to hone their talents.

They have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else so why shouldn't they get the chance to express themselves and show what they can do?

The Englishwoman started the initiative in the beginning of 2020 and already has 30 students attending her classes.

Each week, young people sing, perform drama and express themselves in ways that their families never thought possible before.

“The children and young people who take part have such incredible talent and I wanted to make them feel included,” Ms Amiraly said.

"They have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else, so why shouldn’t they get the chance to express themselves and show what they can do?

“It’s about giving them the same opportunities as anyone else would have.”

Ms Amiraly hosts these talented youngsters every Friday in a studio in Dubai’s JVC community.

“We want them to feel they have the opportunity to fulfil their potential and have the confidence to go up on stage and perform,” she said.

“They are often left out and not given enough opportunities.”

The aim of the initiative is to give participants the confidence to go on and start a career, Ms Amiraly said.

“We want them to have the experience and confidence to become artists in their fields,” she said.

“They should be able to use their talent to perform and make a career out of that.”

She said the academy gave a platform to talented young people.

“One of our students wants to become a famous music star,” she said.

“Having cerebral palsy has not stopped him from wanting to fulfil his dreams of recording music because that’s what brings him happiness.”

That student is Emirati Nasser Hamza, 26, who told The National he was determined to show the world what he could do.

“At Rising Stars, we are able to show we are no different than anyone else,” he said.

“I want to record an album of songs in the future like my idol, Sami Yusuf, a British Muslim singer.”

At the academy, young people are also given the option to take part in physical activities such as yoga, boxing and zumba classes.

The initiative has won the confidence of families by offering extra care for their children.

Dubai resident Nisha Tandon, 50, said she could not believe the difference the initiative has made to her daughter Anoushka, 17, who has Down syndrome.

“Frankly, it has been a wonderful opportunity for my daughter,” said Ms Tandon, who works in recruitment.

“She has a new sense of independence and is now confident enough to order in restaurants without our help.

"Her communication skills have improved immensely in recent months because of the environment she is now in."

Ms Tandon said the academy has helped transform her daughter.

“Being in an environment where her parents don’t have to be there looking after her has given her a great sense of independence,” she said.

“It’s not easy for children with special needs to feel comfortable with strangers but she is happy taking part in the activities there.”

Emirati Ahmad Al Mulla, 27, who is an ambassador for the initiative, said the academy gives him opportunities that are otherwise unavailable.

“We are like a family and are there to support each other. The fact that I am able to act as ambassador for the organisation despite having difficulties is a huge honour,” said Mr Al Mulla, who has Asperger’s, a neurodevelopmental disorder.

“As the ambassador, I look after communications for the group and liaise with other organisations on behalf of the members,” said Mr Al Mulla, who is a freelance photographer.