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Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed reaches out to special needs students

ABU DHABI // Hamda Al Mansoori will always remember Monday – it was the day she met Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed.

Hamda, 33, a student at the Abu Dhabi Centre for Special Needs, and seven friends were received by Sheikh Mohammed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

He asked them what they wish-ed for and when it came to her turn, Hamda, who has cerebral palsy and has to use a wheelchair, started to cry.

“Sheikh Mohammed actually got a tissue, bent down and wiped my tears away,” she said. “I have never encountered such humbleness. He asked me not to cry and said ‘Ameri’ [order me].”

Hamda has a husband and young son, and asked the Crown Prince for a house. “He told me, ‘Consider it done’. He called someone and instructed him to take all our requests.

“I have struggled my whole life, to get married, to get an education, to raise my son. But at this moment I felt like I was so lucky and everything was worth it.

“Sheikh Mohammed was proud of me and he listened to all of my struggles. I keep repeating this moment in my mind. I still can’t believe it. I feel like I’m above the clouds.”

The meeting came after her fellow student, Humaid Al Mehri, wrote a letter to The National telling of his dream to meet Sheikh Mohammed.

The school was contacted immediately after Humaid’s story was published, and the Crown Prince was only too happy to set aside time in his busy schedule.

His guests called the visit the happiest moment in their lives.

“I knew he would come to see me once he found out,” said Humaid, who has mental disabilities. “Every time he visited the centre I would miss seeing him but I finally got my chance.

“My heart was beating so fast and I didn’t know what to say. My friends started crying.”

The students had various requests, including houses, jobs, and cars fitted out for the disabled.

Yousef Al Kithiri, 23, said Sheikh Mohammed told them, “I’ve freed myself for you, tell me how I can help you all.”

Mr Al Kithiri’s mother said her son asked for a job in the media and a modified car.

He had knitted a scarf for the Crown Prince more than two years ago and had been carrying it around, hoping he would some day be able to give it to Sheikh Mohammed.

“I’ve never seen him so happy in his life,” she said. “He came through the doors yelling ‘I met the Sheikh, I met Sheikh Mohammed and I put the scarf around his shoulders’.”

The students posted photos of their encounter almost immediately on social media.

“They have never been so happy,” said Nawal Al Ameri, a teacher at the centre. “Something like this will remain in their memories forever and will have such a huge impact on their lives.

“This is what most people don’t understand. It’s more special for a person with special needs because they will never forget it.

“The memory will always give them immense joy and they will constantly talk about it. It is a boost to their morale and confidence.”

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(via The National)