Ramadan is a time of learning, of spreading joy and of seeing beyond the differences that define us in everyday life. If you think about it, the wholehearted acceptance and inclusivity that Ramadan encourages is something children personify and live in their everyday life.
It’s this sincere quality that Babyshop tapped into with their Ramadan initiative called World Without Walls. As part of the campaign, the kids’ retailer organised an art session last month at The Rashid Centre for the Determined Ones which allowed special needs children from the centre with students from The Oxford School Dubai interact in a safe, creative environment free of judgement or comparisons.
What began as a tight-lipped, awkward ensemble of kids sat around art supplies, soon blossomed into a talkative, energetic bunch of imaginative artists drawing, colouring and dreaming together what a ‘World Without Walls’ – the theme for the day – means to them and trying to translate that dream into art. Together, the children would concoct stories around their drawings, weaving narratives of red cars and purple suns. Where language would fail the determined ones with speech difficulties, the kids would communicate with each other through colours, gestures, drawings and smiles.
When Hannah, who has motor disabilities, found holding a pencil difficult, Alia Marwan from The Oxford school patiently gave her a helping hand, guiding her pencil across the paper to help her finish her drawing. ‘Hannah was very shy so she didn’t talk but she’d point and ask me which colours to use. We’re a team,’ said Alia.
Butti Mahmood Al Falasi, a Grade 5 student at The Oxford School Dubai, was stumped by his new friend Karthik’s artistic skills. ‘I learnt so much. He was drawing a horse [freehand] without tracing it! Even I don’t know how to do that.’
Ten-year-old Joshua, one of The Rashid Centre’s star artists (he won the Emirates Environmental Group’s art competition) kept attempting to draw a mosque until he got it right, a lesson on perseverance that 9-year-old Maryam Saleh Mohammed from The Oxford School imbibed and summed up beautifully with a wisdom far greater than her age: ‘I think a ‘world without walls’ means I should not feel different from them; I should feel the same because we’re all humans’. Sincere smiles that lit up her and her schoolmates’ faces when they presented their friends from Rashid Centre with Babyshop gifts and saw their unadulterated excitement.
Watching the kids at work inspired the adults at the venue; chaperoning teacher from The Oxford School, Alaa Feraat plans to invite the children of determination to her school. ‘This is such a great initiative. I hope we see more of them and that they’ll come to our school next time.’
For Ritu Chaturvedi, head art teacher at The Rashid Centre, the session only reinforced her belief in how important it is to make children of different capabilities interact with each other since a young age and sensitise them to those different than they are. ‘And art is the perfect medium to do so as it’s a universal language.’