Disabled to get gardening lessons
Manama, December 14, 2008
Bahrain's disabled will soon be trained in gardening and agriculture as part of a new initiative to help them find jobs.
A new purpose-built centre is now under development in A'ali and could be up and running by next month.
The Agriculture Training Centre for People With Special Needs is being spearheaded by the Bahraini Association for Mental Retardation.
It will train people with handicaps, autism and other special needs conditions.
The centre is located on a one-hectare piece of land given to the association by the Municipalities and Agriculture Ministry, but sponsors are being sought to help pay for construction of new buildings and the running costs.
What was once wasteland is now being converted into an agriculture training centre and a farm for growing vegetables and plants.
Work started on the land in June and the first stage is expected to be completed by next month-end, said horticulturalist and agriculture engineer Zeeba Al Ameer, who is heading the development.
'This land was closed for two or three years, so a lot of rubbish accumulated,' she told the GDN.
'I worked June, July, August and September to clear the rubbish and get the soil ready.
'I put the greenhouse, installed the electricity and water and now you can see we have nurseries, plants and vegetables and this lovely bougainvillea growing around the land.'
Al Ameer said by the end of January the paths, bathrooms, store and shop would be completed.
'Various donations have helped us get this far, but now we need money to make the buildings and shading area - at the moment we have temporary portacabins,' she said.
'We need sponsors to come forward to cover the water, electricity, Internet and the salaries of the staff - we have four at the moment, but at least 10 will be needed later on.
'We also need more volunteers to teach the handicapped and work on site.'
Al Ameer said that once the centre was completed, special needs students would begin a one-year certified agriculture training programme and would receive BD50 a month.
She said much of the training would be hands-on and students would be taught how to plant vegetables and take care of plants.
'The special needs students will benefit from being outside and working with nature instead of being stuck inside the house,' explained Al Ameer.
'Many studies have shown that working with agriculture gives off positive energy and is therapeutic, so it can help them get rid of their negative feelings of anger and frustration.'
In addition to teaching special needs students, there is a plan to use the centre to provide professional training, which will be an additional source of income.
'The training centre will be for special needs students, but also those who want to learn about agriculture,' said Al Ameer, who spent 20 years in agriculture research at the ministry and is a member of the Bahrain Garden Club.
'So many of the special needs schools have agriculture centres and we want to teach this staff so they can teach their students.'
The idea is that plants and vegetables grown on site will be sold to raise money for the centre.
People can already buy items from the centre, which is located near the National Driver Training Institute.
Association member and agriculture training centre committee member Eman Al Khaja said the centre would open up job opportunities to people with special needs.
She said people with special needs often had difficulty finding jobs and the only options available were usually in societies and schools.
The association hopes the training will open up doors in gardening and agriculture centres for the disabled.
'This training will empower them, develop their personality and give them more confide