The modern building of the help Center in Jeddah offers a wide range of amenities to students with physical and mental limitations.
"Spend of your substance out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy " This is just one of many injunctions contained in the Holy Qur'an encouraging those capable of doing so to engage in acts of charity. In response, many individuals in Saudi Arabia have undertaken to establish charitable organizations to cater to the needs of those with physical and mental limitations. Complementing the activities of the many government-run charitable institutions that exist in Saudi Arabia, these privately-funded and operated philanthropic organizations play an important role in contributing to the development and welfare of children and adults with specific needs.
Markaz Al-Aoun (Help Center) and the Jeddah Institute for Speech and Hearing (see story, Page 22) are two such private institutions.
The Help Center in Jeddah was established in 1986 by the late Ahmed Juffali to provide an environment conducive to developing to the fullest the potential of children with physical and mental disabilities. Such children need to be taught by specialists who understand their problems and who can devise programs to help them live and function as independently as possible within the community.
Beginning with three children and three therapists, the center has grown into a world-class school for the physically and mentally challenged. In 1995, it moved into a new 107,000-square-foot building on 10 acres of land. Today, the school has 275 students and 180 staff, including 150 teachers and therapists who underwent special training at the center.
Run by Maha Juffali who studied the psychology of mentally retarded children in the United States, the center offers a wide range of programs to meet the specific needs of every one of its students. Emphasizing the total involvement of parents in the planning and implementation of individualized educational and rehabilitation programs, the process of accepting a child at the center begins with a series of meetings with the parents of prospective students. Once a child is accepted, an individualized program is formulated that best meets his or her special needs.
For infants between birth and three-and-a-half years of age, the center offers an early intervention program designed to cater to the needs of both the child and the family. The mother is taught how to help her child through the important early developmental stages and also how to involve brothers and sisters and the extended family in this process. Home visits by specialists are conducted on a regular basis for children under 18 months old. The mother and child attend group sessions several times a week with a physiotherapist, a nurse, a social worker and a special education teacher. Between the ages of three and six years, children attend the second phase of the early intervention program, during which time they are taught skills in the areas of socialization, self-help, communication and cognition.
The center accepts children in its day school program as young as four years of age. These children may continue through a series of programs until they graduate at the age of 18. During that period, students are taught a wide range of skills, including socialization and communication, and receive specialized training in elementary science, pre-writing, pre-math, arts and crafts, music and sports. Students capable of completing vocational training programs are offered employment with the Juffali Industrial Group after graduation from the center.
Some 60 percent of the students accepted at the center do not pay any tuition. Twenty- five percent pay part of the tuition and the remaining 15 percent pay the full tuition of 16,000 Saudi riyals (4,266.6 U.S. dollars) per year. However, each student costs the center an average of 70,000 riyals (18,666.6 dollars) a year to care for, and the center provides the necessary funds. The tuition or partial tuition paid by parents who can afford to do so is not used by the center, but instead is set aside in a special account for future use if the student needs ongoing specialized training or rehabilitation.
Over the years, the charitable, non-profit institution has demonstrated its ability to realize its philosophy that "every child is a unique creation of God and as such is entitled to have his physical, spiritual and cultural needs met" in order to lead a full and productive life.