ABU DHABI // One of the nation's biggest philanthropic organisations will devote Dh5 million (US$1.36m) to care for residents living with special needs. The Abu Dhabi-based Emirates Foundation - established by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi - announced the grant yesterday to help improve integration for disabled people and others who require assistance. "Our programme really recognises how important it is to train professionals who work in special needs centres in the UAE," said Peter Cleaves, the CEO of the foundation. "They need equipment and there needs to be new kinds of opportunities - for example, home visitations for children who can't get to the centre itself."
There were about 60 special needs centres in the country, many of which had been started by private individuals, he said. "These are projects of great social responsibility and many of the children who are affected - even some of the adults - do not have the financial wherewithal to pay the fees to go." Agencies such as the Red Crescent were essential for paying the fees for students to attend special education centres, he said. Academic and health institutions could receive grants of up to Dh500,000, to be awarded according to, "what seems most consistent with our programme", Mr Cleaves said. "We hope that our funding encourages other entities - particularly from the private sector - to look at this whole area and upgrade their contributions to the centres, which are doing the great things for the special needs population."
Some high-priority areas on which the foundation wants to focus include home visitation, workplace integration, vocational training, special needs awareness campaigns and national research and statistical database development. In a statement yesterday, Ahmed Ali al Sayeh, the managing director of the foundation, said: "This grant programme is an essential means to strengthening the special-needs platform within the UAE."
Improving the lives of people with special needs and integrating them into the community was "most relevant" to the foundation's mission of "empowering individuals, providing social development programmes to UAE nationals, and building bridges between the public and private sectors". Boosting self-sufficiency for disabled people as well as stopping discrimination are main priorities for the initiative. To qualify for a grant, applicants must outline their objectives, activities, organisational capacity and budget requirements in a two-page summary. The deadline for submissions is Aug 31 and application forms can be downloaded at www.emiratesfoundation.ae. The foundation's mandate is to encourage social responsibility and co-operation between the private and public sectors.