For years now, Omar Aldhiyebi, head of the Regional Football Training Association has been close friends with Hamad Alshehhi. One of the many reasons for their friendship is that as a young person of determination, Hamad did not have other friends. His social circle was limited to his mother and brothers.
But joining the football team changed his life. It also changed Omar’s, too, ad the pair became the inspiration for Rab3i, aka “friends group.” The volunteer-run platform aims to create friendships for people of determination and expand their social environment by matching them with people who share similar hobbies and interests and are willing to help them integrate into society.
Kamilah Al-Khatib, who founded Rab3i with Omar, Abeer Amiri and Abdulla Alsaeari, sat down with the Livehealthy Arabic podcast to explain how the concept works.
How did you start Rab3i?
The idea of creating Rab3i came to us when some of my friends and I were in Rome and we saw a group of people of determination having coffee with their friends. It caught us by surprise. Usually in Arab countries, we do not see people of determination in public places the way we do in Western countries. That’s where I came up with the idea of creating the platform.
We thought, people like Hamad have the right to live a normal life like other members of society so why don’t we help them?
How does Rab3i work?
At Rab3i, we start by meeting with the participants or volunteers to get more information about them. We ask them questions about themselves and their expectations from Rab3i or the friends they prefer to meet in terms of age group, gender, skills and hobbies. Then we go back to our database to search for friends that fit those expectations. We train the volunteers and facilitate their meetings. For example, we go to stadiums in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, to provide services and tickets that a friend group can use for free.
After we get to know the participants individually, we introduce them to each other, either in person or via Zoom (because of Covid-19), and then the friends meet up on their own. Some even travel together. This contributes to expanding the social network of people of determination, so they build up their confidence and have the chance to get to know new people. As part of the program, the friend groups must meet at least once a week.
We focus on people over the age of 18, as this reduces legal problems for us and it also means the person has more independence. They will have finished their basic education and volunteers of that age will also have more awareness than children.
How does Rab3i complement other initiatives?
We also seek to help people of determination develop in their working lives. Rab3i does not only commit to integration within the social community, it is meant to help build self-confidence. The UAE government has a strategy and many programs for employing people of determination, with initiatives like Ma’an Foundation and Zayed Higher Organization for People of Determination.
We can have an integrated approach in schools, workplaces, in universities and even places of worship. The government of Abu Dhabi seeks to impose an inclusive system that normalizes the participation of people of determination in society and the government is also encouraging the private sector to do the same thing.
Ma’an [Social Investment Fund] undertakes many initiatives and encourages the different platforms supporting people of determination. Rab3i is among 10 other platforms that have been selected by Ma’an for training in social acceptance, which has to start at home before anywhere else if our society is to advance.
In another move toward social acceptance, the UAE government has issued a federal law requiring the term “people of determination” to be used in all official government transactions rather than “people with disabilities.”
Can you talk about the term ‘cripspiration’?
The term cripspiration is a phenomenon that occurs when any challenge undertaken by people of determination is linked to inspiration – that is, the focus is not on the person’s disability, but rather on the person themselves: their personality, humanity and abilities.
Additionally, we have discussed the issue of bullying for people of determination. Awareness begins within the family by directing children to be aware of it and to treat people of determination as part of society.
People of determination are not aliens. They have abilities and challenges that differ from person to person. When dealing with a person of determination, look at the person, not the disability, because they are human like anyone else.
• Kamila Al-Khatib was a guest on the Livehealthy Arabic podcast on December 12, 2020.
Lina Elmusa is a literature and coffee lover. She tries to understand the world through language. She's currently exploring the world of media at livehealthymag.