Saudi woman aims to support the blind through ‘Walking Friendship’

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Abdullah during her hike in the second highest peak in Saudi Arabia, Al-Souda mountain, Abha. (Photo/supplied)
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Visually impaired people pose with volunteers from the group in Jeddah. (Photo/supplied)
Updated 26 October 2018
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Saudi woman aims to support the blind through ‘Walking Friendship’

JEDDAH: Seven years ago Sawsan Abdullah underwent brain surgery which resulted in partial blindness, weakness in the right side of her body and partial memory loss.
“After surgery to remove a cyst, I started a new life with a blank slate,” she said. “I had difficulty speaking and understanding, difficulty in walking and even smiling.”
She was a medical laboratory specialist who had practiced karate.
“I was working in the emergency room. All of a sudden, samples used to slip from my right hand. I couldn’t walk and I went into a coma,” said Abdullah, 33.
Her determination to recover led her to where she is now.
“It was a long journey with physical therapy, and I became a motivator for community sports with the Saudi General Sports Authority (GSA). I walk, and practice Tai chi,” she told Arab News.
“I don’t practice karate anymore. Tai chi is a calm, slow sport that helped me to regain my balance.”
Her project, Walking Friendship, includes walking and running activities for the blind and visually impaired.
“Blind people in our group walk with a sighted volunteer at the right time and place, and they create friendships and exchange experiences. It can be done individually or in a group,” she said.
Abdullah said her project has been warmly welcomed by everyone who has heard about it.
“I hope it reaches all blind and visually impaired people. I have had heartwarming responses from everyone, and most importantly from my blind and visually impaired friends,” she said.
“The project is being put into effect currently in Jeddah as I am based here. It is very important for me to expand my reach to all blind and visually impaired people who want to walk. There are friends outside Jeddah who really liked the idea, so I must start.”
The project began when Abdullah attended a gathering at the Ebsar Foundation, a rehabilitation center for the visually impaired.
“A year ago, I did not know many blind or visually impaired people. At the Ebsar Foundation they were very welcoming, as I was personally approaching the blind and visually impaired in the audience to explain the idea to them and get their contact information,” she said.

 

 The group officially started in January with women, then men joined too. It currently has 80 members.
Abdullah would like to see her project grow and receive support from the GSA.
“We want an official permit to practice walking/running with our blind and visually impaired friends in Jeddah,” she said. “We want support from the GSA so that this team will be under their umbrella; and from this, we will come out with athletes who will represent Saudi Arabia in para-athletics.
“Transportation for my blind and visually impaired friends is personally covered. We would like support in transportation so that this activity continues to grow.”
Volunteers receive full instruction before beginning the walks. “They are given explanatory pictures of walking with the blind and the visually impaired,” said Abdullah. “During the walk, the blind or visually impaired person notes a few things to the volunteer. I take these notes in general, and I send these notes to the volunteers after the walk.”
Abdullah says she wants to see more activities offered for this group in society. “One-on-one sessions facilitate a connection between the blind participant and the coach or club, just like we did in the karate sessions and bicycling. My goal is to have sports clubs accepting the blind and visually impaired,” she added.

Decoder

PARA-ATHLETICS

A classification in sports that determines suitable sports for athletes with physical, visual and intellectual disabilities.


Major boost for Al-Jouf as Saudi king set to announce new city

King Salman arrived in Al-Jouf on Tuesday. (SPA)
Updated 21 November 2018
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Major boost for Al-Jouf as Saudi king set to announce new city

  • The king will launch Waad Al-Shamaal, a new city aimed at boosting the country’s mining infrastructure

JEDDAH: Projects worth several billion riyals are to be unveiled by Saudi Arabia’s king this week as he continues his tour of the country’s regions.
King Salman arrived in the province of Al-Jouf on Tuesday night where he will announce the construction of a new city, bolstering the local economy and creating thousands of jobs in Saudi Arabia’s most northern region.
On Thursday, the king will launch Waad Al-Shamaal, a new city aimed at boosting the country’s mining infrastructure, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 
He will lay the foundation stone for the first phase of the SR85 billion ($22 billion) city in Toriaf province — worth SR55 billion —  and is also set to inaugurate the projects and facilities of the second phase — worth SR30 billion.
In the past two months the king has visited a number of major cities, announcing projects and initiatives to develop the Kingdom inline with Vision 2030 — a broad strategic plan to diversify the economy and end dependence on oil revenues.
Before arriving in Al-Jouf, King Salman visited Tabuk, where several projects worth more than SR11 billion were launched.
He also met the team heading Amaala, the ultra-luxurious tourist destination that was unveiled in September and dubbed the “Riviera of the Middle East,” and was briefed on plans for the new attraction.
King Salman praised Amaala’s objectives to contribute to promoting economic diversification, creating investment opportunities for the private sector, and developing the tourism sector in Saudi Arabia while preserving the cultural and environmental heritage.
Meanwhile, the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) announced yet another major project in western Saudi Arabia.
Wadi Al-Disah Development Project, which is expected to become one of the Kingdom’s most environmentally diverse tourist attractions, adds to a number of already launched ventures on western coastal regions.
PIF will establish a company to develop Wadi Al-Disah in accordance with international best practices regarding environmental conservation and sustainable development.
In addition to this week’s tour, the king has so far visited Madinah, Qassim and Hail.