Dr Lina Owies is the executive manager of the Senses Care Home for Disabled Children in Dubai. The non-profit centre, set up in 2005, offers 24-hour residential care to 90 children with special needs. Dr Owies says the centre's biggest challenge is financial, because it relies heavily on donations to take care of the children.
Can you tell us more about Senses?
Senses is a charitable non-profit centre, which receives care requests from special needs segments. Unfortunately, there is no consistent sponsor for the centre. Most of the children are from limited-income families, or have been abandoned or orphaned and they cannot afford to pay any fees. The centre depends on contributions from charity donors.
When was it set up?
Senses was officially inaugurated on April 25, 2005. It is licensed to care for those segments of our community who have special needs. It was founded by Nadia Khalil Al Sayegh and we started out in Jumeirah 3 in Dubai. But in 2010, we moved to a new building in Umm Suqeim 3 that was donated by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
How does Senses help special needs children?
All the children are in need of personal individual care. About 80 per cent of them also suffer from epilepsy because of severe cases of cerebral palsy. We help children and young adults of both sexes from the ages of three to 35. The children are divided into two groups: day care and full-care residential. We work around the year on a shift basis under the supervision of qualified medical staff and nursing care to cater to the children's needs. We have 90 children and we provide them with a range of therapies, such as physiotherapy, sports therapy, occupational therapy and music therapy. We also offer a self-reliance programme, behavioural therapy, and an intellectual and muscular skills development programme.
How hard is it to find donors?
Senses mainly depends on contributions from donors for its smooth running. It's really hard to find donors. In the past few months, the centre faced financial difficulties to give salaries to employees. The centre pays for the children's food, medicine and clothes. It is very expensive because we also need to have qualified staff. Money is very important for the running the centre.
Are there specific sponsors you look for?
At the moment, we need to find sponsors to support a few of the special needs kids. This is to help them to improve their skills so they can move into the mainstream of society. We are also trying to find a sponsor to help us buy a new vehicle, which will be used to transport the children.
Why did you decide to work with special needs children?
I observed in the past that some parents were hiding their special needs kids from society. They were suffering and didn't have self-confidence because they didn't have opportunities to improve their skills. So I studied for a doctorate in special education development assessment and the diagnosis of autistic children to help support special needs kids.
Is it rewarding?
I am inspired to work with special needs kids and I strongly believe that I can support them to become an important part of society, to be a part of a builder of their rights and to protect these rights. I support the parents, too, because they are suffering more than their kids. I feel like a mother of these children.
To enquire about making a donation or to volunteer with Senses, call Amelie on 050 454 4998.