In a tent set up on the sandy summer camp beach that was hopping with children picnicking, playing or taking turns riding camels, 14-year-old Shahira was crouching in silence.
As I assumed an angle to snap a photo of her, the timid girl warned me that she might not be entitled to have that picture taken of her as she was with a disability.
“Are you sure you want to take a photo of me? I am with Down syndrome, and I have a speech disability too,” Shahira said with her eyes nervously glancing at me from above the thick lances of her glasses.
“Yes, I am. Why not?” I reassured the girl, whose face shined with a smile that combined comfort with happiness.
Shaheera has been coming to the GCMHP ‘Summer Fun Weeks’ camp for three weeks. The camp meant a lot for the children, but for Shaheera it was a new life.
“I love the camp, I play, swim and have lots of fun. Before the camp I was really bored – I had nothing to do and I spend most of the day sleeping,” Shaheera said.
As I was talking with Shaheera, her mother, Dr Rana Abuful, arrived. She started excitedly talking to me about how “GCMHP changed Shaheer’s life”. “She feels as if we’ve given her the whole world; it was as if a miracle has happened to her,” Dr Abuful said.
“Before the camp, Shaheera always felt that she was subordinate to other children because of her disability. She never had confidence in herself, however hard I tried,” she added.
She also explained that the previous camps that she joined did not have an impact on her, and she failed to interact with the other children.
Asked how the GCMHP summer camp was different, the 45-year-old mother of five said, that the animators made sure to engage Shaheera in the activities and kept validating her.
“I feel that my daughter is a different person now. She wakes up early in the morning, get dressed, comb her hair and wait for the bus which takes her to the camp. She has become more confident and better communicates with her brothers and sisters,” Dr Rana concluded.