Abu Dhabi group wins funding to train people with disabilities in tourism and hospitality

Sedra has been awarded $250,000 from the Hilton Global Foundation and will develop an app to provide crucial job skills to people with special needs

Vincent Baur, pictured with Alessandro Redaelli, general manager of Conrad Abu Dhabi's Etihad Towers, works in the in-room-dining department. Photo: Hilton
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A non-profit group from Abu Dhabi has won $250,000 in funding to help train people with disabilities for roles in the hospitality and tourism sector.

The Sedra Foundation, a community group that works to include people with disabilities in all areas of society, has been granted $250,000 by the Hilton Global Foundation.

The grant is part of $3.3 million awarded globally this year by the foundation, which is the philanthropic arm of the hotel chain, to organisations that promote resilience, career development and sustainability.

Sedra will use the funding on training people with cognitive, learning or developmental disabilities, including those with Down syndrome and autism, to help create new employment opportunities.

Access to the workplace is more than a job, it is a life changing opportunity for people of determination
Renate Baur-Richter, programme manager at Sedra Foundation

“Access to the workplace is more than a job, it is a life changing opportunity for people of determination,” Renate Baur-Richter, programme manager at Sedra Foundation, told The National.

“It boosts self-esteem, the salary makes a big impact. But it is the experience of being in a workplace and feeling the power of being able to contribute and participate, just like anyone else, stays with people of determination for life.

“It leads to less vulnerability and gives them more independence."

The non-profit group has worked with the Hilton chain in the UAE over the past two years to place more than 30 people with special needs in the restaurant, kitchen, in-room dining, engineering department and front office.

Bridging the gap

Sedra is also creating an app that will help tackle gaps in training and knowledge so people with disabilities can learn office and social media etiquette, as well as understanding the concept of confidentiality and privacy.

The non-profit group’s Hospitality for All, by All programme aims to bridge the educational and vocational gap for young people with cognitive disabilities in the Middle East.

Simon Vincent, Hilton’s president for Europe, Middle East and Africa, said empowering disabled people was an important focus area.

“Throughout Hilton’s history, we have implemented pioneering initiatives that seek to better the communities in which we operate, leveraging resources and connections to build a platform that supports local talent with learning, career growth, and leadership skills,” he said.

“We’re thrilled to see Sedra receive this prestigious grant and look forward to continuing our partnership in the future.”

People with special needs will also be supported with job coaches.

“The training will help build their digital skills and give them practical knowledge in the workplace that will be lifelong learning for adults with cognitive disabilities,” Ms Baur-Richter said.

Sedra has so far placed close to 60 people with disabilities in jobs across the UAE since 2021.

The training the group currently provides also involves educating managers and colleagues about working with disabled people and provides regular communication sessions so queries can be quickly addressed.

“What is extremely important is giving individualised training so line managers are also trained,” said Ms Baur-Richter.

The efforts are part of a countrywide scheme to match people with disabilities with potential employers to spread the message of inclusion.

Founded in 2014, Sedra works with the families of people with special needs, hosts community programmes, youth meetings and cinema clubs.

The app will be developed over a period of 14 months and tested by people with special needs in the hospitality sector.

“This will actually be put to test in the workspace,” said Ms Baur-Richter.

“Psychologists will also work with people of determination so they can achieve their full professional development.”

Updated: October 11, 2023, 6:24 AM