CAIRO: An Egyptian mother of a disabled child who established a village in Alexandria Governorate to support her son and people with disabilities is reaping the benefits of her noble project.
Nada Thabet, a member of parliament, who set up Al-Amal, or the “Village of Hope,” told Arab News: “I gave birth to a baby 42 years ago, and after a few months, I noticed that he does not see me and does not move like normal children. When I traveled abroad with him, the doctors told me that he is disabled and will need special training and treatment.”
Thabet tried to help her son integrate into society by homeschooling him, ignoring antiquated, insensitive advice from doctors who advised her to treat the boy like a “pet cat or dog.”
At the time, Thabet struggled to find a school for children with disabilities in 1980s Egypt. “I and several other mothers tried to establish one class in Alexandria at St. Mark’s College School to teach people with disabilities.
“We started with three children, then the number grew with the increasing awareness of mothers and fathers about the necessity to educate the disabled.”
For the Village of Hope, Thabet chose the location in the Burj Al-Arab area, on the outskirts of Alexandria.
“My family owns a large plot of land in that area, but the place was initially a desert, so we greened it with plants and paved a road to reach the site. The main idea behind the village was to create a place to train the disabled in handicrafts. When we started promoting the village, only five children joined us,” she said.
“First, we set up a bakery, then we experimented with agriculture, which turned out to be a great success because children learned from nature, then the number of children increased, and it has been constantly increasing ever since,” Thabet added.
The village also has a carpentry workshop. It organizes seminars for disabled children and their families to increase awareness and help them deal with their children’s disabilities.
“Now, more than 40 children are enrolled in the village, some of whom spend the day and then go home with their families, while others reside in the village and go to their families only for two days because of long distances,” said Thabet.
The Village of Hope is an association for the development and social rehabilitation of the disabled. It also encourages NGOs to support its cause and spread the culture of volunteerism in a way that guarantees the rights of the disabled.
Thabet devoted herself to public and voluntary work in Egypt 15 years ago. “All the children and people suffering from disabilities who joined the association have seen a great improvement that makes us feel that we have succeeded, and contributed to their rehabilitation and integration in Egyptian society. We also help them launch their products in the market," she said.