Mariam Othman – Co-Founder and Director of Rashid Pediatric Therapy Centre, Dubai
The corridor echoes with laughter. Laughter from the beautiful souls that run blissfully in the halls of the Rashid Pediatric Therapy Centre (RPTC) filling you with joy, love and light. And why not? This is the place where blessings and good wishes reside. As Mariam Othman, the woman,who has been at the helm of RPTC since it’s conception over 20 years ago rightly says, “ I am truly rich! I am blessed with prayers!”
“My friends think I’m crazy. All they want me to do is leave this behind and get a comfortable government job that will give me more time. But I love doing this. I am a person who likes giving. At the risk of sounding philosophical, it is a fact that the kids here are truly happy and love to be a part of the centre. Sometimes the parents come and tell me they are praying for me. It’s really heart warming,” she says.
“To be honest, I did not always want to work with children with special needs,” explains Mariam, “I graduated with a degree in Psychology and while working with those with special needs was part of our education process, it wasn’t my core focus. I, initially, wanted to work with people who suffered from psychological problems.” But life has a way of throwing you curve balls and expecting you to just go with the flow. “I was given this opportunity and I embraced it completely. For me, when I do something, I fall in love with it; I put my life into in,” she adds.
What started out as a clinic where the children came for a few hours to receive therapy has now grown to a fullfledged centre that provides a full day of physiotherapy and education to them all. “I remember the first day at the centre like it was yesterday. 40 kids came! I will never forget that day,” she exclaims.
Mariam still faces some challenges and her biggest concern now is the need for specialists, “We have been outsourcing these positions and often it is seen that talent from outside has to be trained to be sensitive to the local traditions of approaching and counselling parents. The reason we need local specialists is that they already know the region and its people well.” Passion drives most people so the work continues despite long hours, little pay, and little room for growth. “However people forget that selflessness and the spiritual joy it gives is no match for working conditions which might not be favourable,”she notes. But Mariam has noticed a positive change in Dubai concerning people’s habits, “Many people and companies are approaching us for events and sponsorships, it’s much better than before. The RTA and the government, for instance, consider people with special needs into their plans for the city. You can see this in any shopping mall or hotel – the facilities are better than the ones that can be found in Europe!”
“We need awareness; we need the people and businesses to support charity,” she explains as she discusses how charities have evolved over the years in the region, and she acknowledges the city’s leaders for their encouragement. “If you look back 15 years, we didn’t have anything, now our rulers have taken the initiative to make a change. I am particularly pleased that my ruler cares and is striving to make a change for our country,” she states. Surprisingly, events occurring around the world and charity organizations like Rashid Pediatric are interrelated with sponsors rescinding their offers in lieu of countries such as Palestine, Sudan and even Pakistan, but as always, Mariam is hopeful. “Like other companies and big businesses depending on sponsorships to survive, we’re the boat in the middle of the sea – our lives are up and down, but we know how to steer.”