WITH DETERMINATION

Abu Dhabi 2019 | EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Abdullah Al Humaidan, General Secretary of Zayed Higher Organization for Humanitarian Care and Special Needs, on inclusivity, technology, and the economy.

Abdullah Al Humaidan
BIOGRAPHY
Abdullah Al Humaidan is the General Secretary of Zayed Higher Organization for Humanitarian Care and Special Needs. He obtained his master's degree in business administration and his bachelor's in management information systems. He is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management and the American Society for Quality. He joined Tawteen Council as PMO Director in 2010, and was appointed Executive Director in 2012, before he was appointed as Secretary General of ZHO in 2018.

What impact did the late Sheikh Zayed have on people and the overall social development of the Emirate?

The late Sheikh Zayed launched the first initiative many years ago with the objective of establishing specialized centers that focused on rehabilitation and education for people with special needs and giving them a right to self-determination. Secondly, he ensured that all the legislature and laws in the UAE were supportive and encouraged the inclusion of everyone in society. The third point was ensuring there were special programs, such as a start-up employment fund, that could allow people with intellectual disabilities to work and be active. At the founding of the Zayed Higher Organization for Humanitarian Care and Special Needs in Abu Dhabi, several staff members were relocated from the Ministry of Social Affairs, with other people joining from other centers after meeting with Sheikh Zayed. One of his messages was, “I will do my job by supporting your activities, but you play an important role in ensuring that these people with special needs have education, rehabilitation, and care in order to participate in our development plan. They have to be part of the economy by contributing to and being part of the workforce that boosts the growth of the UAE."

What are your organization's goals and programs moving forward?

Empowering people with special needs and making them self-confident enough to contribute to and become a part of society is our goal. We have a word, tamkeen, which means reassurance. It all goes back to reassuring them that they, too, are a part of our development. The challenge is to make sure that we design the right development programs that will prepare them for the workforce. Choosing the right programs and development is important when it comes to making sure they acquire the skills they need. In terms of awareness, things have been improving over the last few years, especially with the advent and popularity of social media. When Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid introduced the title of “people of determination," we began to see a significant change and impression it was making on people, especially on parents, who became prouder of seeing their children relabeled in a more positive way. It was a major turning point in UAE society, and it is spreading throughout the Gulf and the world.

What impact has technology had in enhancing the inclusion of people of determination in society?

There are two aspects when it comes to technology. In terms of rehabilitation, there is a trend across the UAE where everyone seeks to acquire the latest technology to support its people. We are focused on analyzing all aspects of medical treatment and therapist sessions to incorporate technology to ensure our children develop on the right track with a tangible result, all with less time and manpower. The process took several phases; first, we reviewed how it is done in countries such as Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and Spain. Then, we handpicked the best equipment to support our programs and finally worked with the first pilot in Abu Dhabi, bringing technology that supports different areas such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy. In terms of assistive technology, there have been changes in regard to multi-disabled children, such as those who have difficulties walking, using their extremities, or communicating and interpreting their environment, perhaps by improving eye movement or increase eye contact. On the social side of things, everyone is engaged with social media to some extent to express their ideas and suggestions. They are now a part, to some extent, of councils and committees: for example, in Dubai we were proud to have a legally blind doctor be the chair of a delegation going to the UN in the US to renew a disability fund.

How do you expect the needs of people of determination to evolve in the near future and the UAE to adjust accordingly?

We hear a great deal of news regarding labor and workforce changes that can affect future plans. We started by working to emphasize skills that make them more adaptable to the yet-undefined future. They must be entrepreneurial so that they can adjust the way they want to live in the next five to 10 years. There were two pilots launched in early 2018 where we encouraged people of determination to start their own business while we support them for one year. Manufacturing, renewable energy, financial services, and communication are the sectors with the greatest potential in terms of the direction of our economy. We are currently working on several projects that should give us a great foundation.