Tag Archives: United Arab Emirates

Kaltham Obaid Bakheet: the infirmed filmmaker

Having had a car accident while driving back from Dibba, Oman in 1990, Kaltham Obaid Bakheet has made a video about the rehabilitation programmes offered in the United Arab Emirates that has helped her become a government employee for the Ministry of Health today.

The accident has been ‘a turning point in her life’ and it had made Bakheet realize the ‘long journey’ ahead of her. The short film also highlighted the importance of education and family values in society development as well as in how the road to success begins with one’s inner faith.

Recently, Bakheet has founded the Handicapped Guardians Association in Sharjah as well as the Association of Empowering Women with Disabilities in the UAE. She is also first deputy chairman of Al Thiqah Club for Handicapped, a city government office in Sharjah.

“No matter what the circumstances are, the journey to success starts with self-belief that I can accomplish any task. In spite of the ordeal I went through I still have a lot to do. I studied hard and accomplished a lot.” ~ Kaltham Obaid Bakheet

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of the UAE Gov

Photo courtesy of the Khaleej Times

Meeting Pope Francis: A PWD’s Experience

It was on a drizzly Sunday morning.

Wearing a white shirt—the color assigned to persons with disabilities (PWDs)—I braved the January sky hoping to see personally the head of the Roman Catholic Church since 2013. Of course, one may argue (as I myself would) that seeing a pope is just another act of religion. Still, I tried to see Pope Francis in either of his visits in the Philippines from January 15 to 19.

It had not been easy; I have moved to the United Arab Emirates right after my college graduation. To add to the ‘problem’ is the possibility that not only one person would want to see him. There’s also his tight security and—of course—my disability.

So I wrote to my editors Karl Kaufman and Veronica Pulumbarit; to the members of the Papal Visit Central Committee; to every affiliated organization of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in Facebook; to the priests and their respective parishes listed in the website of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila; to the papal visit website; to the CBCP Media Office; and to the Manila Cathedral.

Only nine replied to me, however: the Department of National Defense (DND), the Episcopal Commission on Youth (ECY), the Saint Andrew the Apostle Parish, the San Antonio de Padua Parish, Magsimba.com, the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Radio Television Malacanang (RTVM), and the Manila Cathedral.

The Department of National Defense, the Saint Andrew the Apostle Parish and the San Antonio de Padua Parish have acknowledged my letter but regretted that they cannot help me. The ECY Secretariat pointed me to the Archdiocese of Manila. Magsimba.com suggested that I wrote to my parish priest and ask him to refer me to a bishop. There might be a chance if he would be the one to refer me. I did that but got no reply again.

Both the MIAA and DFA gave me the contact details of Archbishop Socrates Villegas. It was also the DFA who suggested that I write to the Apostolic Nunciature of the Philippines.

The Manila Cathedral also replied to say that it is not in-charge of the would-be guests. The Commission on Youth of the Archdiocese of Manila said it has only limited information. The Apostolic Nunciature directed me to the Central Preparatory Commission of the CBCP.

I also communicated with Bishop Antonio Tobias and Fr. Antonio Labiao, the bishop of Novaliches and the director of the Diocesan Pastoral Office respectively. There had been a report that each archdiocese and diocese was asked to send at least five PWDs from their respective jurisdictions during the mass at the Luneta. Much as I do not want to take advantage of my plight, I grabbed the chance and wrote even to the administration of the San Roque Cathedral. I may be a resident of Quezon City at the present but I have lived in Caloocan for almost 20 years.

Neither of them replied, though, as well as Msgr. Edgardo Pangan, the president of the Canon Law Society of the Philippines.

Then two days before Christmas, I received an email from Fr. Jade Licuanan of the Archdiocese of Manila. He told me he was the one who asked Ms. Maria Luisa Garcia of the Commission on Youth of the Archdiocese of Manila to contact me. I could get into the event that will be held at the University of Santo Tomas! Pope Francis will be addressing the youth there. What just remains uncertain was how far or how near I will be from the stage.

Then two days before the papal visit, Fr. Licuanan informed me that I could be in the section where PWDs like me would be. How joyous had that been! I reached the venue—all because I was accompanied by my mother (who I call my “human tungkod”), my two aunts, and my two cousins. There was also a woman who tried to make a way for me through the packed crowd, a man who helped me ‘jump’ off the sidewalk, and another who let me ‘squeeze’ in between two posts.

Unfortunately, I got drowsy after the rain began to fall. It was only dropping occasionally before the program started but poured continuously as soon as Pope Francis spoke. Probably, too, waking up at 1:30 in the morning and walking from the ‘Welcome Rotonda’ roundabout to the UST grounds have finally taken its toll on my body and I could not do anything more about that.

It had not been upclose even. There were two rows and a flight of stairs between Pope Francis and me. My mother and I tried to move upfront but, since I am not on a wheelchair, we were advised to go back to our original lane so I would not be easily shoved if ever Pope Francis goes down.

But a line from Pope Francis’ message still stood out: To think, to feel, to do. I used to wonder if I really have been ‘lucky’ because I’ve experienced what it’s like to be normal before becoming a ‘full-pledged’ PWD. I’m now sure that I really have been.

SPED for All

Special education (SPED) refers to classroom or private instruction involving techniques and exercises for persons with disabilities (PWDs) whose learning needs cannot be met by the standard school curriculum.

Its inclusion in the United States started after the Second World War. Then it was introduced in the Philippines by David Prescott Barrows, an American anthropologist who had established the Insular School for the Deaf and the Blind in Manila (later renamed as School for the Deaf and Blind).

In the United Arab Emirates, an agreement was signed with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in November 2006. There’s also the Federal Law 29/2006 that assures every PWD in the country, and the UAE Disability Act that promises its nationals with special needs of ‘the same rights to work and occupy public positions, special facilities at airport and hotels, access to public vehicles and parking, and equitable access and facilities into all new property development projects,” among others.

It also mandates both public and private schools to accept a child with special needs (SN) who wishes to enroll in them. There would be vocational and rehabilitation centers and every effort would be made to take in special needs students in mainstream educational settings.

One of its emirates, Abu Dhabi, has partnered with the New England Center for Children to establish a comprehensive education program in either English or Arabic. Its fourth largest city, Al Ain, has a sports club that could train PWDs for the Special Olympics.

I still think, though, that integrating SPED in the basic and secondary curriculum is necessary, beneficial, and practicable. I had hinted about that in my first post and mentioned it particularly in the introduction of this blog.

“I discovered early that the hardest thing to overcome is not a physical disability but the mental condition which it induces. The world, I found, has a way of taking a man pretty much at his own rating. If he permits his loss to make him embarrassed and apologetic, he will draw embarrassment from others. But if he gains his own respect, the respect of those around him comes easily.” ~ Alexander de Seversky


Video taken from the YouTube Channel of GreatSchools