QF students help their ability-friendly peers thrive through volunteering
On the occasion of the International Volunteer Day, marked on December 5, Qatar Foundation members explained how volunteerism develops leadership and boosts inclusivity.
Students from Qatar Academy Doha (QAD) are training to become assistant football coaches within Qatar Foundation’s Ability Friendly Programme. The Student Athletic Community Leaders is a pilot volunteer initiative, which was established in 2019 but put on hold due to COVID-19. It was re-launched earlier this year.
“At Qatar Academy Doha, we recognize that our students have various passions and desires to actively engage in the community in different ways. And we wanted to cultivate more meaningful opportunities for them in which they could seek to have an impact on the wider community,” said Elizabeth Kennedy, Primary Assistant Principal, QAD.
“We believe that this pilot initiative offers the students an opportunity to get hands-on training on specialized coaching, fosters their athletic leadership, and allows them to share their football passion with their ability-friendly peers,” she said.
Khalid Al Shaibei, a Qatari seventh-grade student at QAD, is taking part in the Student Athletic Community Leaders program. According to the coaches, he is assisting, he has a genuine connection with his ability-friendly peers and is passionate about sports and giving back to the community.
“My love for the game started when I was just a little kid, and I believe everyone should have the chance to play football. Knowing that this may not be the case for everyone was the reason I participated in the program – so I can be part of the solution, helping those who might have limited access to such opportunities,” said Al Shaibei.
“Sharing my football passion with people who have different abilities and giving them confidence is a unique experience, and it allows me to look at things from their perspective.” Al Shaibei explains that their training included learning to be supportive at all times, and helping the Ability Friendly Program participants become comfortable and familiar with their environment as well as improving confidence levels.
“As a child who had a stutter, I used to have zero conferences in speaking in front of others, I was very shy and introverted. But I was lucky enough to receive incredible support from my teachers and family members who believed in me, and eventually, I became someone who, when the opportunity arises, steps forward to represent my school in public events.
I’m trying to do the same with the students I am working with – I’d like to give them the confidence to play the game and to become comfortable with different environments,” said Al Shaibei.
As part of the training, the coaches provided the QAD students with a detailed description of their roles and responsibilities as assistant coaches, the goals of the program, and the criteria for choosing the candidates, which included showing commitment, flexibility, and enthusiasm.
“The idea of the pilot program was to develop and standardize a volunteering opportunity that benefits Qatar Academy Doha students and our Ability Friendly Program participants,” said Ryan J. Moignard, Special Needs Football Specialist and Coach at QF. According to Moignard, the aim of the program is eventually to create a replicable model within the Pre-University Education System to include volunteers from across all QF schools.
Alongside football, the QF program — launched in 2019 — offers weekly swimming and cricket sessions, as well as playball activities, for children with specific needs. Arts and crafts sessions are also part of the program.
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