Working for Fairness in Bahrain

Brent Gets Ella a Job and Meets More Students

Jamal, who has Downs syndrome, and his mother in Bahrain.
Brent Elder

— Job Hope for Ella

I met with Ella’s family on July 3 to see what progress had been made toward potential worksites within the community. After discussing the entire list, Ella narrowed down her preferences to her “top four.” They are: 1) The British Council (a British library that offers English classes for children and adults); 2) My Gym (a children’s gym that offers an array of classes from infants to age thirteen), 3) Budaiya Preschool (which Emad currently attends), and 4) a nearby florist shop.

Workplace inclusion is almost nonexistent in Bahrain, therefore I was apprehensive about how potential employers would receive our requests to employ someone with special needs. Ella has a disability that make people judge her based on appearance, so I was not optimistic we would land her a job anytime soon.

The following day, Ella, her mother, brother, and I went to the British Council. We met with the assistant director and the information specialist to discuss Ella’s options for employment. They were extremely receptive to our proposition and indicated they would e-mail me, if and when the director approved Ella’s employment. We all walked away with a positive attitude.

The British Council has since contacted me indicating that they are looking forward to Ella starting a volunteer position with them when she arrives back from her family vacation in early August. Budaiya Preschool is also open to having her work, possibly for pay, when the school year begins in September. Ella’s older sister and I visited My Gym and they were similarly open to her volunteering. Not only had we landed Ella one job in less than two weeks of collaboration, we connected her with three potential employers! Hopefully this is just the beginning of what we can accomplish for people with special needs in Bahrain.

Freedom of the Press

As a result of the press coverage from the presentation I gave at the Bahraini Rotary Club, Dr. Lori and I received e-mails from people in the community who need/want our support. One woman, whose son is in a private Catholic School, came to us because she feels her son has dyslexia. Lori and I assessed her son, conducted a parent interview, and gave them strategies to improve his reading ability.

In an effort to show her gratitude, the boy’s mother gave us a Hershey’s chocolate bar and three outdated magazines. She explained that these gifts were the only means by which she could afford to express her thanks for us helping her son. Her sincere and heartfelt gesture put into perspective the magnitude of services this part of the world is in need of.

A New Family

Through Ella’s family – the family of a three-year-old boy, we will call him Jamal (pictured at top with his mother) – contacted me for services. Jamal has Downs syndrome and his parents want him to be included in school, and they do not want to fight every year to keep him there. He has a larger-than-life personality and is very friendly.

Jamal can count, knows his colors, knows the letters and most of their sounds, and he is extremely social. If anything, he should be included in a typical school with typical peers so he can help them learn basic kindergarten concepts. This could be his chance to be the teacher.

Jamal, who has Downs syndrome, in Bahrain.
Brent Elder

As we sat together and conducted a formal goal-setting meeting, it became apparent that Jamal’s family simply wants the best for their child. They do not want people to discriminate against him based on his appearance, nor do they want anyone to pity their son. They have high expectations and dreams for Jamal, and they want the opportunity for others to believe in him as well.

As our planning meeting came to an end, we reflected on the lists of dreams and plans we had created for their son: living a safe and healthy life, having friends, having a family, getting married, having a career, going to a typical school, and being challenged by his environment. The dreams they have for their son are no different than what they wanted for their two college-aged daughters – a healthy and happy life.

We are collaborating in order to secure a future for Jamal that is not based on his disabilities, but rather on a set of dreams most of us hold for our loved ones, no matter what ability level they possess.

For past Brent Does Bahrain posts, see here, here, and here.


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