DUBAI // Nasser Ibrahim is planning to go out of his way to help autistic children. More than 100km out of his way. The 28-year-old Dubai resident plans to lead a charity walk from Abu Dhabi International Airport to Dubai, beginning Thursday night, to raise money for the Dubai Autism Centre. "Pity for the children suffering with autism in this country is not enough," said Mr Ibrahim, a senior credit officer at RAKBank. "We need to do something for these people, to raise awareness and make some small contribution."
One in 90 children around the world suffers from autism to some degree, according to Hayula Mourad, business support and communication unit head of the autism centre, a non-profit organisation. The centre currently operates from a villa on Al Dhaiyfa Road, which limits its capacity to 48 children and youngsters. More than 160 patients are on its waiting list. "We are building a new centre in Garhoud," she said. "Work had to be stopped because of the economic crisis but we are hopeful of starting again soon."
This is Mr Ibrahim's fourth charity walk between the capital and Dubai, and he will have more companions than ever before as many as 80 on various stages of his journey of more than 50. Since 2004, he has hiked between Abu Dhabu and Dubai to raise money for charities involved with trachoma, a blinding disease; for the Unicef effort to bring relief to victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami; and for the SNF Children Development Centre for special-needs children in Dubai.
Mr Ibrahim has walked with as few as one companion. "If the weather is hot it is bad for your feet, but if it is cold it is bad, too," he said. He was so cold during a 2005 walk that he climbed inside construction tubes lying along the road to get warm, he said "The pain is more physical than mental," he said. "I advise everyone now to come with light baggage, just the essentials, like a sleeping bag and water."
So far, only two or three people have confirmed they will walk the entire 100km with him this year. "Many say they will, but saying is not doing," he said with a laugh. The walkers will head towards Dubai on Sheikh Zayed Road, stopping for food and drink at petrol stations along the way and sleeping for a few hours when they grow weary. "We sleep anywhere," he said. "We don't go to hotels. We have slept ... in the sand. Anywhere.
"The whole point is to do something extraordinary. Unless we do that we will not get the attention we want to get for autism." @Email:email@example.com