RAS AL KHAIMAH // A centre for children with autism has been saved from closure after the community rallied around to help.
Last month, The National told how the RAK Autism Centre could be shut down because of a lack of funds, meaning 20 children would lose their development programme.
But residents and companies across the country jumped behind the centre’s cause.
They offered volunteer work, organised fund-raising campaigns and provided financial support to cover the next year’s expenses and pay for the centre’s move to a new building.
"We are really thankful to The National newspaper for giving us a platform to voice our calls for help when the RAK Autism Centre was threatened with closure," said Aysha Al Shamsi, the centre's founder.
“After the article about the centre’s situation the phone didn’t stop ringing.
“People called us from different emirates to find a way to keep the centre open and running.”
These included a major bank that covered an entire year’s expenses, plus Dh800,000 to cover electrical fees and equipment for the new building.
The new centre, which was built by the RAK Government in 2013, can accommodate 100 autistic children of different ages.
“Everything should be ready before the beginning of the first semester and we will start accepting new applications by May,” Ms Al Shamsi said.
The new building will have 12 classrooms, a music room, two special therapy rooms, a swimming pool and a playground.
“We will also add 10 more therapists to the team,” she said.
Osama Hasan from Sudan, who has a child at the centre, said he was relieved.
“The centre has contributed to helping our 13-year-old boy Ahmad over the past eight years,” Mr Hasan said.
“He started speaking, reading and writing, while his behaviour changed for the better.”
Moving to the new building “will definitely help in developing new skills and offer better treatment opportunities”, said Mr Hasan, 57.
RAK Autism Centre was established as a non-profit organisation in 2006 by a group of volunteers and education experts.
Atta Al Sidig, 50, from Sudan, whose 12-year-old son Muhsen attended the centre, said he could not imagine the consequences if the centre had closed.
“It takes care of our children and provides continuous advice to us parents, and in return we are always ready to give all the support they need,” Mr Al Sidig said.
“We are very happy to know that not only will the centre stay open, but that it will also move to a better place where they will have more space to explore and learn.”
But Ms Al Shamsi said the battle was not yet completely won.
“The donations will cover us for another year, but we still need to find a permanent source to continue operating in RAK and offer educational and vocational support to autistic children in the emirate,” she said.
Anyone who can offer further support should email firstname.lastname@example.org.