Financial help needed for Abu Dhabi special needs school to keep operating

Parents of the pupils pay a fee but this only covers about half the cost for teaching each child so the Future Centre for Special Needs indulges in fundraising to maintain its lifeline service.

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ABU DHABI // The Future Centre for Special Needs, which provides a lifeline for many families, is struggling for funding.

The centre relies heavily on generous donations and is under the patronage of Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Culture, Youth and Social Development.

He is also the honorary president and funded the facility's move to a new site in Mohammed bin Zayed City in 2011. But money is still tight. Parents pay a fee but this only covers about half the cost for teaching each child, said the centre's director, Dr Mowfaq Mustafa.

New equipment is always needed to cater for the very different needs of each pupil, while weekly trips to take them horse riding or for shopping - outings that help integrate them into society - are a drain on resources.

"We do charity, we ask for partnerships with companies, we do bazaars and galas and open days," Dr Mustafa said.

"But we always have a wish list. Every year we need new things. If we didn't work at fundraising we could not run the school.

"We could not survive and continue the work we do."

A thank-you letter pinned to one of the colourful walls outside a classroom details the success story of one pupil, Arsho, 8.

She has cerebral palsy and attended a special-needs centre in Jordan until she was 5, when her family settled in Abu Dhabi.

Since joining the Future Centre for Special Needs, Arsho has flourished. Her father, Viken Derderian, said the centre had worked wonders with his daughter.

"It was a big challenge for us as a family to bring Arsho and expose her again to a new school system and get her introduced to new teachers," he said, describing the family's transition from Jordan to the capital.

"We were always under the impression that adapting Arsho to the Future Centre would be one of the most difficult tasks.

"However, the feeling of warmth and the friendly environment created by all the Future Centre staff made things very easy for us.

"We started feeling the great joy that she started feeling towards her teachers. We had not seen her that happy and relaxed for a very long time.

"We had never thought the day would come that we would see our daughter taking her first steps alone and be able to walk even a few metres.

"This was considered a miracle that finally happened a few weeks ago."