In his own words: QF’s Ability Friendly Sports Program makes young people who face challenges realize they are heroes

General

Ahmed Hamdy Maklad, a Sports Programming Coordinator at Qatar Foundation, speaks about how Qatar Foundation’s accessible sport program is changing the lives of its participants.

It is because of the experience of coaching that I have gained over the past 12 years that I chose to volunteer as a football coach with Qatar Foundation’s Ability Friendly Program – one of the most important sports programs we have within our community engagement portfolio. And it’s a pleasure to witness the development of this program and the support it provides to those with special needs in Qatar.

I have felt both happy and proud to be part of a valuable and noble mission.

Since I started my volunteering mission with the Ability Friendly Program, I have felt both happy and proud to be part of a valuable and noble mission, and to see the great support that our management and coaches provide to catering for participants of both genders and all ages, and their needs – from people with Autism, learning challenges and Down Syndrome to those with visual, hearing, and physical impairments.

One particularly unforgettable moment was during the FIFA Club World Cup 2019 in Qatar, when some of the young people from our Ability Friendly Program played their part in the event as official FIFA ball and flag carriers. Their happiness and pride was clear for all to see, and what this showed is how big a part of our society they are. It reflects the message of sport as a whole, and also the message of our program.

The message I and others like me look to send to our community is how sport can improve our lives and lifestyles, and benefit us both physically and psychologically

As a physical education graduate, the message I and others like me look to send to our community is how sport can improve our lives and lifestyles, and benefit us both physically and psychologically. I am glad that through my experiences and the role I have now, as part of a professional and talented team, I can help to spread this message, help our program participants to grow and develop, and hopefully help to change their lives.

It’s vital for us to show them, and make them realize, that they are a valuable part of our community – they are not people who should simply be on the sidelines.

From the first session onward, it’s very important for us as coaches to gain the trust of the participants, and to make sure they love what they are doing. But it’s just as important for them to have trust and belief in themselves – to recognize that they are heroes, and that when it comes to sport, they can do it. They are smart, active, and they love what they do. And, above all, it’s vital for us to show them, and make them realize, that they are a valuable part of our community – they are not people who should simply be on the sidelines.

The happiness that we see participants show when they are able to perform well and they feel the improvement they are showing means a lot to us.

The impact of the Ability Friendly Program over the past two years has been amazing, and transformational for many participants. It’s great for us to see, for example, people who are part of our Ability Friendly Football Program moving into mainstream football programs. The happiness that we see participants show when they are able to perform well and they feel the improvement they are showing means a lot to us – for them to be proud of themselves, and confident that they are part of the community and becoming more engaged with it, is a great success in itself.

As COVID-19 continues, we are, as we have always done since the start of the pandemic, implementing all the necessary safety measures as our top priority, and we are making sure that we stay in constant touch with our participants via virtual activities and pre-recorded sessions that keep them active and engaged. And as well as our participants, their parents are also happy with the benefits their children gain from the Ability Friendly Program, as they learn about the importance of living a healthy lifestyle, gain new skills, become more sociable and engaged with the community, and feel more confident about their abilities.

We are all glad that that Ability Friendly Program is now operating more sessions, and extending to more locations within Qatar Foundation – at Qatar Academy Al Khor and Qatar Academy Al Wakrah – so the impact and the difference it makes can be broadened. It’s a pleasure to be part of this program, which would not be possible without the amazing support of Qatar Foundation, and the coaches and team I work with.

The third application cycle for QF’s annual Qader Award is now open until May 8. The award helps community members participate in QF’s Ability Friendly Sports Program – which provides swimming and football classes to people aged 4 and above with specific needs and disabilities – regardless of their financial circumstances.

Those who are granted the award are able to enroll in one of QF’s accessible sports programs for an entire academic year at no cost.

 

Source: Qatar Foundation