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AQF Team Expands Development Work to Fujairah

Al Qasimi Foundation
March 25, 2015

Through a new training program at the Fujairah Young Men Social Foster Home (YMSFH), the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research has expanded the impact of its work with at-risk youth beyond the borders of Ras Al Khaimah. Organized in collaboration with the Al Bayt Mitwahid Foundation, the Relate Program seeks to help YMSFH staff work more effectively with juveniles and their families. To date, 14 staff have participated in the training.

“Many of the youths incarcerated in the UAE have social and economic backgrounds that make them vulnerable to factors that can lead to delinquency, including a lack of educational opportunities and healthy family contexts,” explains Dr. Natasha Ridge, Executive Director of the Al Qasimi Foundation.

The Al Qasimi Foundation has always placed a special emphasis on serving and supporting vulnerable populations through its research and capacity development initiatives. Given its experience working with Ras Al Khaimah correctional facilities, Al Bayt Mitwahid approached the Al Qasimi Foundation for assistance in developing the Relate program last year. 

The Relate initiative consists of seven workshops and is part of Al Bayt Mitwahid’s Bright Start Initiative in Fujairah. This program has two aims: to equip juveniles at the YMSFH with the necessary skills to reintegrate successfully into society upon their release and to develop the capacity of the center’s staff in providing support for the juveniles. 

 “We want our capacity development efforts to be based on relevant research, and this is especially true for programs serving vulnerable populations in UAE,” says Dr. Ridge.

“Therefore, we’re excited to be working with Fujairah’s YMSFH to implement practices that address the underlying factors that often influence high-risk youth.”

Ms. Therese Heffernan is a trained nurse and community support worker as well as a course instructor in the Relate program. She created the Relate curriculum based on her experience as a private home-care support worker and staff trainer at a juvenile rehabilitation institution in Belfast, Ireland. At the YMSFH, Ms. Heffernan has been impressed with the staff’s commitment. 

“I found the Fujairah team to be dedicated professionals with a genuine desire to make lasting changes to improve their interactions with juveniles in their care. It is evident that they are keen to ensure that the most effective systems are in place to facilitate a universal and holistic approach to juvenile offender rehabilitation,” says Ms. Heffernan.

The YMSFH staff members were equally optimistic about the training they received. The director of the center, Mr. Khameis Al Khadeim, remarked that they would put an operative system in place to monitor and engage with its young men and their families and that juvenile aftercare—during which juveniles are supervised after their release—was essential for ensuring the success of the rehabilitation program. 

In particular, staff noted they were “eager to apply what they learned about methods for engaging and empowering the offenders to reach their crucial life goals and implementing internal job coaching in their future work with juveniles.”

Mr. Luke Zimmermann, who is the Al Qasimi Foundation’s Program Manager for Teaching and Learning and its Relate coordinator, observes, “The Relate program has been effective in helping staff at the center to evaluate their services, but we’ve found that the community needs further coordination among government agencies to develop a support network for the youth offenders and their families.”

Based on the success of the first Relate workshops, the Al Qasimi Foundation organized a second course to train YMSFH staff on how to use the Hands On Learning (HOL) approach. The method focuses on the positive behavioral modification and re-engagement of at-risk youth through meaningful hands-on projects in their communities. 

Based on an Australian program, the Foundation is currently piloting HOL in two government schools in Ras Al Khaimah. Fujairah represents the second emirate to employ HOL methods in working with young men.

In addition to theoretical classroom instruction, the HOL training at the YMSFH included a simulation workshop day in which YMSFH staff modeled the HOL approach in preparation for the program’s implementation at the youth center.  

Eight YMSFH staff members attended the three HOL workshops and remarked that they “appreciated the support from the Al Qasimi Foundation” and would like to include the HOL method in their weekly schedules.

Although the course ended this month, the Al Qasimi Foundation hopes to continue supporting the YMSFH with its HOL implementation in the future. 
Mr. Caleb Wilson, Special Projects Coordinator and Hands on Learning instructor at the Al Qasimi Foundation, reflects on the possibilities that the HOL program and other Foundation initiatives hold for young people throughout the UAE. 

“Improving educational outcomes is a goal that drives many of the Foundation’s development efforts,” he says, “and, at the end of the day, we want to see crucial segments of the UAE’s population better equipped to succeed in the long run, so we are glad to see that other emirates want to implement capacity development strategies based on the work that the Foundation has done in Ras Al Khaimah.”