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For their third annual school show, the production team at Nün Academy started with a vision of writing a script that would embrace every  single one of their school values. A script that would eventually be titled “With our Values we Rise”.

They dreamt of a show that would embed these values deeper into the fabric of learning that happens in and outside the classroom while at once giving students the opportunity to experience the many benefits that are gained from developing a healthy appreciation of and participation in the Performing Arts. “With Our Values, We Rise” not only celebrated these values but gave all those involved a chance to truly live the values over the course of what was almost a year of preparations.

The show takes us on a visit with Nün Academy students to their grandparent’s home, where they reunite with their cousin Hanif, visiting from Canada. Their grandparents used their time together to connect the children with the values presented in the Quran and modelled by the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), the children in turn make the connections between the stories of the past and their very own school values. These connections help them to develop an understanding that while their school values are rooted in the wisdom of the ages, they remain relevant to their day to day lives.

Every member of Nün Academy, from the students to the staff, set High Expectations for themselves and others. They strived for excellence from the moment the idea of tonight’s event was born. Staying true to their value of “Glocal” Education, each scene was played out in Arabic, which was also the language of choice for their narrators. At Nün Academy they believe that All People are Different, and because of that each member of the team took on a different role which suited them. They truly felt that this production was the definition of Education for Life and Beyond, giving them the opportunity to use the skills they’ve developed– confidence, public speaking, responsibility, resilience and independence. The idea of social responsibility and hence their values of Humane Consciousness was installed through the themes of different scenes. By the time the audience got up they could definitely feel the last and  most important value of all Life is What I Make It!

Location: 7639 Omair Ibn Abi Waqqas, Al Murjan District, Jeddah 23715
Web: www.nunacademy.com
Instagram: nunacademy

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Destination Jeddah by Dj Staff - 3d ago
Blossom inspires confidence in all Saudi women.

For the third time, Blossom organized Thiqah, their women-empowerment event, in honor of International Women’s Month, bringing together a network of Saudi women who are working professionals, entrepreneurs and founders, and community members seeking value creation and growth.

Blossom’s CEO and Founder Emon Shakoor explains that they help women realize their full potential through their accelerator, activities, and events, such as this one.

Photo by Blossom Mena

At the event, four inspirational speakers – Vicky Mathews, Sarah Khonkar, Marriam Mossali, and Loulwa Al Sharif – shared their stories and what they do every day to build confidence in themselves. There were deep-dive workshops, where each speaker discussed what confidence meant, and encouraged the audience to build connections and network.

Previous attendees have successfully made connections and received job opportunities, and many were motivated to start or progress in their own business after attending the event. Blossom has more events coming up; their goal is to create a platform and network for every Saudi woman to prosper, grow, and ‘blossom.’

“Thiqah coincided with International Women’s Month, but at Blossom we empower and honor women every single day,” says Emon.

Web: blossommena.com
Instagram: blossom_mena

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Destination Jeddah by Ahmed Darwish - 3d ago

DESTINATION  X  THE FOODIES

Traveling is a joy – you get to go sightseeing, hit the beach, meet new people, and most importantly, dive into some local cuisine! Some food is amazing, some need you to get a little bit outside of your comfort zone, and others are just totally insane! We take you on a little journey around the world with the good, the bad, and the ugly, at least in terms of food. The Good

Lablabi

Tunisia is not only known for its amazing beaches and luscious greenery, but also for its cuisine and love for spicy food and tuna. Lablabi, a Tunisian soup-like dish, is traditionally eaten for breakfast and widely available in many local restaurants. It is a hearty meal, containing chickpeas that are in a flavored thin soup, served over pieces of stale bread and topped with a poached egg and a seasoned dressing. Typically, it is garnished with tuna and olives.

Cataplana

Native to the Algarve region, it is a combination of different, delicious seafood like prawns and clams, mixed with sausage. A cataplana efficiently contains the flavor and heat of the contents in the dish, making it uniquely flavored and scented. Definitely not something to miss if you visit Portugal this summer! Interesting fact: the dish got its name from the cataplana pan.

The Bad

Haggis, Neeps, and Tatties

Scotland is a lovely country engulfed in mystery and history, but they do have their share of ‘weird’ dishes. Haggis sounds cute and cuddly, but really is a savory pudding made from sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs, minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and cooked while traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach (although now often in an artificial casing instead). Neeps are basically Scottish turnips, while tatties are the potatoes. Feeling hungry yet?

Kokoretsi (Kokoreç)

Turkey isn’t just for enjoying grilled Kebab and lovely dolma. There are also dishes that make your back curl if you think about its ingredients! Kokoretsi consists of grilled lamb or goat intestines wrapped around seasoned internal organs, including hearts, lungs, or kidneys. In Istanbul, you might find it in small eateries, but the authentic ones are sold on wheeled food carts on the street.

The Ugly

Balut

Balut, a famous Filipino delicacy, is a 16-to-21-day-old fertilized duck egg that contains not only a yolk but also a semi-developed duck embryo. Balut vendors tend to come out in the late evenings or at night. We’re not sure how that came to be, other than that its appearance may be enough to put off the squeamish, so perhaps best to eat it in the dark!

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Destination Jeddah by Deena Dakhiel - 4d ago

Story by: Enas Hashani

Where nature, history, and innovation come together.

I was beyond excited to arrive in Northern Ireland and meet the Invest NI team. They have been nothing but kind to show us around the beautiful surrounding areas and introduce us to their incredible country.

The weather was chilly but wonderful on our first morning, after an intro from the Invest NI team, we took part in a guided tour and briefing at the Titanic Museum. Titanic Belfast has been dubbed the World’s Leading Tourist Attraction at the World Travel Awards back in 2016. It is located beside the Titanic slipways, the Harland and Wolff Drawing Offices and Hamilton Graving Dock, where the Titanic was launched in 1912. Not only was the architecture incredible, but so was the history. We learned about the story of the Titanic, from the conception to the construction and launch.

Next up was the Queen’s University Belfast tour. One of the leading universities in the UK and Ireland and one of the most elaborately sculpted buildings I have come across. No wonder it is ranked in the top 10 most beautiful universities in the UK. With its uniquely rich heritage and history, Queen’s University Belfast stands as the UK’s ninth oldest university with state-of-the-art facilities.

After a night’s rest at the Grand Central hotel where we were staying, we traveled to the Kris Turnbull studio for a tour with the company director. The Kris Turnbull team is exceptionally talented and offers a range of design services that are recognized all around Europe and the Middle East. Being one of the most esteemed design studios in the UK, they offer architecture, interior architecture, interior design,
and styling.

COURTESY PHOTOS

We then moved on to the NI Tourism tour. Tourism NI is the national development authority for tourism in Northern Ireland with a mission is to grow tourism in the region. The tourism itinerary included many destinations where I felt like I was walking onto the set of Game of Thrones. On the first stop on tour, we got the chance to see the famous Dark Hedges planted by the Stuart family back in the 18th century as a means to impress visitors as they made their way to the entrance of the Gracehill House. The long and ominous road included tall intertwined trees that met at the top to hide the sun from beaming down on us. This gave the street a dark and mysterious feel, a perfect spot to film the Game of Thrones.

The second location on tour was Carnlough, a small but incredibly picturesque harbor followed by a trip to the Cushendun Caves. The caves were large and magnificent, a perfect contrast to the quiet and sandy beach it overlooked.

Later we visited the Larrybane Quarry which is adjacent to the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge. Located on the North Antrim coast, the location held an incredible view of the Causeway Coast. Afterward, we visited the Ballintoy Harbour, a tiny fishing village with a regal panoramic view. The last spot was the most incredible and forever memorable Giant’s Causeway. With an almost dreamlike view of the wild North Atlantic Ocean and dramatic landscape of giant cliffs, Giant’s Causeway has captured the hearts of all who have come across it from artists to scientists. The tour was insanely visually inspiring, and I have no doubt that NI Tour will reach its goal of making Northern Ireland one of the top world-class tourist destination.

After a well deserved good night’s rest at the Bishop’s Gate Hotel in Derry-Londonderry, we traveled to visit the magnificent Ulster University Magee campus. The university is Northern Ireland’s public university whose research has contributed globally as well as to the local region’s social and economic betterment.

Later that we visited the CDE Global HQ. CDE is a wet processing equipment company for sand and aggregates, mining, C&D waste recycling, and industrial sands. The company has been designing, manufacturing and commissioning wet processing plants for over 25 years. Visiting the headquarters of such a prestigious company has been truly eye-opening and an exciting way to wrap up our trip to Northern Ireland.

A real island gem of culture, entrepreneurship, gastronomy, and more; our Northern Ireland trip served as an eyeopener. Beyond the shamrocks, any traveler who gets the chance to visit this wonderful country would be in luck.

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Destination Jeddah by Mustafa Al Hafi - 4d ago

Edited by Nessreen Tamano

With Strength, Sport, and Faith.

“My Cancer Retreat” is how Mohammad Al Dakhil, 36-year-old Saudi athlete and banker, describes the period during his cancer treatment. In 2017, on a Friday morning, Mohammad woke up with excruciating pain in his lower back. At first he thought it was muscle tension, but the pain became unbearable and he went to the hospital.

After a first round of medical tests, there seemed to be nothing wrong, but the pain continuously increased for Mohammad. The doctors decided to make further tests and put him under a pain management program. After further checkups, they found a sudden inflammation in the lymph node in Mohammad’s chest, it was later identified as a rare type of cancer called Germ Cell Tumor.

Mohammad decided to pursue his treatment in Jeddah, choosing to stay close to family and friends despite the option of receiving treatment in the US where he was born and raised.

Photo by Mokhtar Chahine

In the US, after graduating in 2006 from Maryland University with a degree in hospitality, he and his wife Lojain Rifai decided to pursue a healthy lifestyle, both of them getting certified as personal fitness trainers before moving back to Saudi Arabia. Working hard to make healthy choices as part of their daily routine and way of life, it was definitely a shock for the couple to receive news of Mohammad’s diagnosis.

While receiving treatment, Mohammad made it his goal to push himself and cross his mental and physical limits as part of his coping mechanism with his disease. He continued to work out and exercise, even on the days when he didn’t feel at his one hundred percent.

Doctors warned Muhammad of the effects of over-exercising, especially in his condition, but he equipped himself by getting to know his cancer and his body. “Many cancer patients don’t have enough knowledge about their cases and are scared to push themselves and their bodies to the limit,” he says. “You have a choice – work hard to overcome your challenges, or fail. I decided to work hard.”
Engaging in sports and physical activity helped Muhammad overcome his chemotherapy symptoms, and gave him strength to fight his cancer. “Faith above all doubt is important,” he says, “and my belief that my body heals itself to function better, both mentally and physically.”

Throughout this difficult time, he worked to improve his relationship with Allah and with his family and friends, to reflect on his life, to focus on what’s important, to spread positive energy, and to use healthy and active choices to battle cancer. This was his Cancer Retreat.

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Destination Jeddah by Valerie Behiery - 4d ago

“Art has a potential for showing and changing people’s experience, including psychological elements.” – Dr. Fahad Alfahed, Art Therapist and Lecturer at KSU

Making art makes us feel good, but does it possess healing capacities? Artists have always recognized the well-being and self-transformation that art provides. Cubist painter Georges Braque described art as “a wound turned into light,” while American artist Julia Cameron proclaimed that “Art opens the closets, airs out the cellars and attics” and “brings healing.”

Art’s ability to express what lies beyond words and give shape to the goings-on of the human unconscious led to its early medical usage with psychiatric patients. Slowly, art therapy, formally recognized in the 1940s, emerged as a distinct branch of psychotherapy. Practiced in myriad settings – hospitals, rehabilitation centers, prisons, shelters, and refugee camps, it is used to help individuals cope with trauma, personality disorders, depression, and physical disabilities, amongst many other health impairments.

Research confirms, from both a physiological and psychological perspective, the value of the expressive arts to the healing process. Art’s benefits are not reserved, however, for those experiencing major challenges as studies show that making art reduces stress, improves self-esteem, enhances learning, and fosters creative thinking and problem-solving skills.

Working with an art therapist possesses advantages, as Dr. Fahad Alfahed, a board-certified art therapist and lecturer at KSU, explains, “Art itself is therapeutic when it is used appropriately with or without an art therapist, but working with the right art therapist is essential to best achieve desired outcomes.”

Producing art in a place that feels safe with someone you trust allows clients to go deeper in their self-exploration.

Moreover, the interaction with a well-trained therapist who perceives clients’ art with fresh eyes and listens to the stories they weave around it greatly facilitates clients’ intuitive understanding of their images, allowing them to better imagine a way forward.Art therapy is now practised across the globe, including in Saudi Arabia, although it is limited to a few institutions. Dr. Fahad also notes the issue of training: “People in Saudi Arabia are interested in art therapy, but many have difficult access to education.” Lucille Proulx and Michelle Winkel, directors of the Canadian International Institute of Art Therapy currently teaching in Cairo, observe the desire for art therapy education in the wider Arab world: “We are now experiencing from our Egyptian students the thirst for art therapy techniques and theory during this month’s training on attachment-informed art therapy.It is critical that we address the stresses and challenges impacting today’s families in creative ways, and art therapy is an economical, evidence-based intervention wonderfully suited to Arabic culture.”

Because the creative arts are central to contemporary Saudi culture, the growth of art therapy would have far-reaching, positive social consequences. We can only hope, along with these art therapists, for a day when Saudi-based art therapy programs are established across the kingdom.

Places Offering Art Therapy

King Fahad Medical City

Location: As Sulimaniyah, Riyadh
Tel: 800-127-7000

Tawazon Space (founded by Khoulod Aladani)

Location: Abdul Rahman Ibn Abi As Sarh, Shati Dist., Jeddah
Tel: +966-565364663
Email: khoulod@TawazonSpace.com

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Hanna Shahbar’s Journey.

Hanaa Shahbar was focused on her goals and career, holding a prominent position at an architectural engineering firm, when her life changed so abruptly in 2016 upon discovering that she had Stage 3 breast cancer. She spiraled into grief and pain, and even as her family showered her with love, she was acutely aware of being treated by everyone around her as a “sick person.”

She eventually began painting, expressing what she was going through – all the emotions that reflected her state of mind as she adjusted and tried living with her cancer. When she started attending art events and collaborating with other artists, she found that it helped her overcome the initial depression and sadness that came with having cancer.

“I turn these feelings into visible works of art, highlighting the importance of finding happiness from within, despite what I go through,” Hanaa says.

“The first piece of work I finished, Silence of the Frightened, left me upset and confused. It expressed a combination of fear, anticipation, and a longing for silence. I ended up destroying the artwork.” Hanaa tried again soon afterwards, confronting herself and her fears, and sharing Confrontation with her family. “This time, it was all about acceptance – it’s okay to wear a wig and faux lashes, it’s okay to live for yourself. We need to love ourselves, before expecting others to,” she adds.

After a spate of treatments, Hanaa battled her cancer successfully. In celebration, she created Success to reflect laughter, happiness, and her gratitude. “I’m currently under treatment still, but I always remember to be grateful to God.”

She shares, “We all have difficulties in our lives. Cancer patients who have a positive perspective, like Shaima Eidi and Hana Iskandar, are sources of inspiration for all of us.”

She aspires to be one such person, too; she learned motion graphics to produce her full story on video and share it with others, and she created a page dedicated to supporting other survivors.

Instagram:  hanno_2018 / hanno_art_

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Life coaching, as defined by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), is basically partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. It helps coachees move from where they are to where they want to be in life via a multitude of techniques such as guided imagery, neuro-linguistic programming, mindfulness, and visualization.

The concept of coaching can be applied to different aspects of one’s life, including financial, health, and professional. Coaching is more future-oriented, focuses on outer action and results, is more short-term, and doesn’t involve diagnosis. We speak to a couple of notable and certified coaches who continue to empower individuals and organizations through life coaching.

Maggie Aradati

Maggie is a certified holistic life and career & executive coach from the Goal Imagery Institute. She initially majored in political sciences and minored in psychology.

She took a detour into coaching after she had discovered and fallen in love with positive psychology, the scientific study of well-being and optimal human function, which had a lot in common with coaching. From her experience, the majority of clients’ obstacles stem from their belief system. Beliefs drive thoughts that in turn are translated into actions.

“As cliche as it may sound, if you believe you can then you most certainly will,” she explains. Coaching not only allows her to lend a helping hand to others, it also drastically altered her perception of life. She has become more aware of self-limiting thoughts and firmly believes that anything and everything is possible once you set your mind to it.

Instagram: wellbeing_with_maggie

Reem AlJizawi

“Coaching is a journey that starts with uncertainty and ends with clarity. It is the invisible dance that takes place in the session between the coach and the coachee through an intelligent conversation that leads to immense awareness. It is a state of flow that ends with brightening our paths to the final image we always aspire to be and become.” Founder of coReach, a coaching firm and platform based in Riyadh, Reem Al Jizawi is a social & emotional intelligence and executive & team coach. President of the ICF Saudi Chapter, she became a certified professional coach from Erickson Coaching International after her positive transformation experiencing coaching firsthand as a coachee.

Reem explains that a good coach should never offer advice – clients are whole and resourceful, and coaches only help them make their own decisions. She also clarifies that having a coach does not automatically translate into success. You have to be willing to do the majority of the work and apply what is established during coaching sessions to be able to achieve your goals. She highly advises clients to ensure that the coach they hire is accredited, and have a clear understanding of the service contract and all it entails.

Web: coreach.co
Instagram: reemaljizawi / coreachco

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Destination Jeddah by Yasmine Mohamed - 4d ago
Let’s Start a Conversation on Mental Health.

Mental illness scares us because it is an abstract disease of the mind that is not readily proven to exist unlike physical ailment. We fear what we do not know. To cope with that, it becomes easy to go into denial, or make assumptions about it and avoid people suffering from mental illness. Being unaware of proven facts about mental illness further entangles an already complex situation.

Mental illness has a grand halo of stigma surrounding it, a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. Sadly, it is considered a disgrace to suffer from mental illness in our society, and that is an added burden for all involved. Like any disease, there is an underlying causative biological imbalance in mental illness; it’s not a choice. It most certainly is something that needs to be addressed.

According to an article published in the World Psychiatry Journal in 2002 titled “Understanding the Impact of Stigma on People with Mental Illness,” stigma can be divided into public stigma (also known as social stigma) and self-stigma. Public stigma is the general population’s (including family and friends) reaction to people suffering from mental illnesses. Self-stigma is the prejudice people with mental illness have against themselves.

Both kinds of stigma include three elements: stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination. Stereotypes are perceived negative beliefs, prejudice is an agreement with stereotypes or the development of an emotional reaction (e.g. fear or anger) to them, and discrimination is acting on or responding behaviorally to prejudice.

Common stereotypes held about mental illness in our society include attributing mental illnesses to having weak faith or a weak personality.

Other false beliefs about mental illness revolve around the notion that they are always chronic and all medications used for treatment cause dependence. Discrimination may take the form of withholding help, avoidance, coercive treatment, and segregated institutions, along with physical. emotional, or verbal abuse.

Stigma in all its forms has significant and deleterious effects on people with mental illness. It delays the acknowledgement and acceptance of the disease process, delays medical attention, and augments feelings of guilt and shame where self-esteem suffers. The incidence of suicidal ideation, suicidal attempts, substance abuse, and self-medicating practices may increase as well. Eventually, overall outcomes and quality of life significantly diminishes. It’s really time to stop the stigma and start a conversation that offers tangible solutions, and cultivates a culture of understanding.

Signs of possibly having a mental illness include but are not limited to a drastic shift from a person’s baseline attitude, actions, or mood. For those who feel like they may be suffering from a mental disorder, get help. Don’t allow the fear of being labeled hold you back. The faster you are diagnosed, the sooner you embark on a journey towards recovery. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a mental illness – don’t fall victim to denial, embrace yourself in its entirety.

You are not weak, and you don’t need to suffer for long and in silence. Surround yourself with supportive family members and friends you trust. Open up and avert from isolation. Book an appointment with a psychiatrist and explore the various available treatment options.Equip yourself with knowledge about your diagnosis; remember that it doesn’t condemn nor define you. No matter how dark or hopeless the situation may be, never give up on yourself. It will get better.

To everyone else who surrounds those suffering from mental illness (caregivers, family members, friends, employers, colleagues), be part of the change today. Telling people with mental illness to “stop whining” or dismissing the disease altogether sends out a dangerous message despite it coming from a good place. Abstain from such comments, belittling others’ suffering, and being judgemental. Educate yourself on the matter to have a better understanding, and to become active advocates.

For more information on specific disorders, here are some places in the Kingdom to seek medical attention from:

ACT Adult & Child Therapy Center:

A multidisciplinary mental health care private practice. They provide a wide range of services including adult and child psychotherapy, child and adult psychotherapy, coaching, marriage counseling, play and art therapy and more. They also offer regular seminars and workshops.

Location: 233, Mohamed Bin Abdulaziz St. Al Andalous District, Jeddah
Instagram: actcenter

Medicare Clinics:

Established in 1998, these clinics provide home visit services for those unable to attend the clinic, run Wechsler IQ tests and the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory that assesses personality traits and psychopathology, and provide group therapy along with other services.

Location: Al Madhar Ash Shamali, Takhassusi Street, Al Mathar Ash Shamali, Riyadh
Instagram: medicareclinics

Dr. Ali Alsalamah Medical Center:

A center that specializes in psychiatry, psychology, sociology, guidance and rehabilitation for Autism and ADHD patients.

Location: Street 28, Alanoud district, Dammam
Instagramajaberalsalamah

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Saudi Arabia’s Special Olympics Athletes.

When 50 Saudi athletes arrived home from the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, hearts around the Kingdom beat as one in celebration of their return. They were welcomed back as the heroes they are; airports across the Kingdom hosted jubilant family members, friends, co-workers, government officials, and royal family members, all excited to applaud the phenomenal efforts of the team who gave it their all to bring pride to their country and us all.

At the World Games, Saudi Arabia was represented by 21 women and 29 men. Throughout the week-long competition, the athletes created inspiring moments of sheer passion, skill, and joy, culminating in a life-changing experience for everyone that was involved.

It’s these moments that are important, even more so than the 40 medals won by Saudi Arabia’s athletes during the World Games, as they represent the real heart and soul of the Special Olympics. For several of the athletes, this was their first time competing outside of the Kingdom. For others, it was their first time to visit Abu Dhabi. Every moment, in the lead-up to and during the World Games, has created a lasting experience that every athlete, family member, volunteer, and spectator will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

For Faiz AlShehri, Assistant to the Head of Saudi Arabia’s delegation, the most overwhelming moment of the World Games was when the they entered the Zayed Sports City stadium during the opening ceremony. “We were representing Saudi Arabia with the biggest delegation to date, including female athletes for the first time, and I felt so happy and proud to be there.”

The Saudi women’s Basketball team imbibes the spirit of the games as they assist an injured opposing player.

Having spent a lot of time with the athletes during the course of the World Games week, Faiz saw the impact participating in such an event had on them. “They met new people, made new friends. This is what the Games were founded for and what they encourage – friendships and inclusion of athletes with intellectual disabilities, and the opportunity to meet their peers from other countries and different cultures.”
There are hundreds of unsung heroes who gave their time, talent, and love into making the journey possible. Accompanying Saudi Arabia’s team were family members, coaches, doctors, and nutritionists, as well as representatives from the Special Olympics Saudi Arabia Federation.

One of the parents at the World Games was Heba Al Shawli’s mother, Reem Abdulrazzak. Heba participated in several athletics events, winning gold and bronze medals. “My daughter’s achievements give me a great sense of pride, and I am also proud of all of the other athletes,” she said. “More than being a success just for Heba, I see the participation of all of our athletes as a national achievement.  The Special Olympics World Games is a platform that promotes respect of the differences we all have, and it proves that people with intellectual disabilities – people with disabilities in general – have amazing skills that should be nurtured and invested in.”

More than the excitement of winning, though, is the opportunities for growth that the World Games offered to Heba, and many other athletes. “These Games have strengthened her courage, and she has become more disciplined and committed to her daily routine, which now includes exercise and training.”

Athlete Heba Shawli embraces her coach in celebration.

The sentiment was echoed by Mona Albaiti, who coached the award-winning women’s bocce team. “The World Games has had such a major positive impact on the athletes, especially in terms of boosting their self-confidence and their enthusiasm for participating in sport.” It was an emotional experience for Mona herself.

“I cannot describe how I feel, being part of a team that has grown to be more like a family. For months, our athletes have worked hard, supporting one another through the highs and lows that come with being international athletes. Watching them grow together and become more confident in themselves and their abilities, seeing the hard work and effort come to fruition, and getting such a positive response from the media – it was all beyond our expectations.”

Volunteers from Saudi Arabia also travelled to the UAE to join thousands more from around the world who donated their time to make the Special Olympics an incredible experience. The ecosystem of support extends beyond the attendees; it includes the communities in which the athletes were raised, and the educational and rehabilitation centers around the Kingdom which play such an important role in providing education and opportunities to people with intellectual disabilities. The Help Center in Jeddah, for example, is where the women’s unified basketball team began its gold-medal journey.

It also includes the companies that embrace diversity and practice inclusion by employing people with disabilities, and everyone who takes the time to engage with a post featuring Special Olympics Saudi Arabia on social media. Every little moment counts and contributes towards the creation of a nationwide environment that supports and celebrates everyone.

If there’s one thing that our athletes have shown us, it’s that the support of the community can help everyone shine. As the dust settles on the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, the athletes have been welcomed back and celebrated into their everyday lives, with the knowledge that they’ve made their country proud, and the understanding that this is far from the end of their story. Their experiences have made them stronger and more confident, they’ve made friends from around the world, and they’ve proven that it’s possible to make dreams come true.

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