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The kingdom’s differently abled youth came together to celebrate the completion of its six-week summer camp that featured a series of fun activities including art, dance, fitness and yoga classes.
More than 20 youngsters from across the island participated in the festivities which was organised by Bahrain4all in cooperation with Dadabhai Holding, Bahrain Institute for Hospitality and Retail, Lulu Hypermarket, Rife USA, Spartan Fitness and Art of Living Foundation.
The culminating event took place in the Atrium mall. It followed a morning at Spartan Fitness where the stars of the day enjoyed an exclusive training session with Larry ‘Wheels’ Williams, an Instagram icon and one of the world’s strongest bodybuilders.
Larry, who has trained with the world’s strongest man and Game of Thrones actor Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, guided the students through cardio, a short workout and even played against the entire squad in a friendly game of tug of war.
The final day’s workout was a special treat after six weeks spent working through a training programme where the youths developed basic fitness skills.
David Erdelyi, gym manager at Spartan Fitness, said: “The summer camp grew quite a bit this year plus the programme was longer. The children were here three times a week for all the six weeks and we found that by the final day, they were more social, much more active, and happier about being at the gym. They enjoyed fitness exercises like weights and pushing the sled. Most importantly, we got quite attached to each other.”
After the morning with Larry, the squad got busy with art, crafts and puzzles at the Atrium mall.
These activities were supported by Rife USA, a multidisciplinary clinic providing individualised, therapeutic intervention to children with developmental delays across Bahrain.
Research studies conducted on students with developmental challenges have found that art, dance and music therapy can empower these students and provide them with effective tools to deal with sensory overloads, which can occur when students are exposed to loud sounds, crowding and other environmental factors.
Aishu Madduri, Rife’s art therapist, who has been working twice a week with the youngsters throughout the summer, said: “Art therapy can be very helpful for differently abled students, especially in terms of communication. For example, there was one student who did not speak at all but we were able to communicate on a sheet of paper by blowing different patterns with wet paint and a straw. Art is such a free form of expression with which anyone can engage with or without words. Unlike talk therapy, with art, even if they make a smudge of paint, we have something with which to work.”
The afternoon got quite lively and loud as some of the boys danced and jammed out to music, taking short breaks to munch on some snacks provided by Lulu Hypermarket.
Meanwhile, some of the quieter students like Faisal, worked on jigsaw puzzles, colouring exercises and crafts, employing some of the skills they have learned throughout the summer to enjoy the afternoon in their own way. This jealous journalist looked on with a tinge of green as Faisal put a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle together with such apparent ease. It almost looked like a composer directing a symphony.
Everyone also took a break to practise some yoga, which was led by volunteers from the Art of Living spiritual centre.
This centre has provided yoga classes to children throughout the season, enhancing their abilities with meditation and yoga as tools to stay fit and of course, manage sensory overload.
Lulu, which has been one of the most vocal and involved supporters of the event, not only provided snacks and a space for the final event.
They also supported the camp with a day at the hypermarket, where staff was made available to help them work through their grocery lists.
While grocery shopping may seem like a routine and mundane activity to most of us Muggles, it can be difficult for students who are overcoming developmental challenges.
Building this ability and doing the exercise in a relatively controlled environment allows the students to develop lifelong skills, supporting them as they integrate into society.
Lulu opened up the hypermarket to the students for an entire morning, during which each student was given a list of groceries they had to collect. The kids explored the store, finding items like milk, bread, tissue boxes and other groceries and filling their carts as they navigated the expansive store with help on hand as needed.
Nivedita Dhadphale from Bahrain4all said: “It was a monumental task for them and they definitely enjoyed it. The Lulu staff were really helpful and let us roam about for quite a few hours. Many of these kids do not know how these stores are laid out and this was a great introduction for them.”
Even the Ministry of Interior got involved in the camp with director of Health and Social Affairs Major Fatima Omar Abdulghafar interacting with students during one of the weekly sessions organised to provide safety and emergency training.
The children also visited the UK Naval Support Facility where they explored the HMS Shoreham. The sailors from HMS Shoreham and personnel from the United Kingdom Maritime Component Command had previously worked with Bahrain4all and more than 120 people to design a mural for World Disability Day, which now hangs at the Bahrain Financial Harbour.
The campers also visited Roma restaurant for lunch where they were treated to many activities as well as a traditional Italian lunch.
The Bahrain Institute for Hospitality and Retail (BIHR) provided the venue for most of the activities in addition to cooking classes organised by Chef Suresh and supported by the trainee chefs from the institute. Students learned to prepare sandwiches, pizza, pastries and cakes, with daily lessons, as they worked in spacious fully-equipped kitchens.
Hatim Dadabhai, the managing director of Dadabhai Holding and BIHR added: “With this special summer camp, we aim at providing physically and mentally challenged youth with simple culinary preparations, basic technical skills and other interesting activities to keep them engaged with positive energy.
“For the last 20 years, we have been providing training to Bahrainis and then guaranteed employment with the aid of Tamkeen. Similarly, we are working with differently abled students to also develop their job-ready skills in our many labs. As we go forward, we hope to also provide them with guaranteed employment once they are ready to join the workforce.”
The closing event, which lasted the entire afternoon, also featured performers from the Sopanam club who entertained the crowd with a cultural performance.
The organisation is exploring various alternatives to continue to provide fitness, culinary, art and lifestyle development sessions, albeit in a pattern more compatible with their school calendars. While the businesses involved have expressed an interest in continuing to help students, the organisation is looking for ways to work with the appropriate authorities to create a structured programme.
On a personal note, I was deeply impressed and touched by how comfortable each participant was with each other and in just being themselves, especially in an environment that was starting to overload my senses. I look forward to seeing these especially enabled eager beavers around Bahrain, and maybe one day, I might even come close to matching Faisal at solving jigsaw puzzles.