“That was a very good presentation,” Ramez heard the professor say to him as soon as he was finished. Ramez could see the amusement in the eyes of all his classmates. A couple of them were even discussing the videos he showed in his presentation, but as he took another look at the classroom, there was one person who wasn’t amused by it. He wasn’t discussing the videos and pictures, not because he didn’t want to, but simply because he couldn’t see them. His disability prevented him from doing so. He was blind.
Ramez accepted all the praise from his classmates and professor and then left the classroom. The only thought that controlled his mind was how he never noticed in his four years of studying at university that there were people with disabilities sharing the same campus as him; he never thought how hard it must be for them to not be integrated in the community and to not be able to enjoy the simplest of things. He spoke his mind to his friend Amena and together, they decided that it was time for a change. And from there, Helm was born.
I always knew that Helm was a Non-Governmental Organization that aimed for the inclusion of people with disabilities in the community, but I wanted to know more about it. When I heard about their new SEED program; I couldn’t find a better opportunity to explore what Helm was offering.
“What is SEED program and what inspired you to start it?” I ask Ramez Maher, years after the presentation that changed his life.
“Well…as Helm, we always knew that employment for people with disabilities was an issue,” Ramez says, “So, in our first year, we employed lots of people. But, we later discovered that most of them either leave their jobs or end up being fired. We started researching and found that there were lots of problems that hinder them from finding and staying at real jobs.”
“And what were these problems?” I ask.
“For example…the companies are not aware of the conditions of people with disabilities and as a result, they don’t want to hire them. On the other hand, because people with disabilities were not properly integrated in schools and universities from the beginning, their skills are less developed, so they can’t compete in the market. From there…SEED was born; A program where we tackle all of these problems and bridge the gap between employers and people with disabilities”, Ramez explains.
While doing my research, I found that the SEED program was a collaboration with the Embassy of Ireland, so I ask Ramez about the role the embassy had in the program.
“The embassy sponsored it so it can be offered as a free opportunity as we bring top trainers from across the country. This also makes us have a certain criteria when picking the applicants. We hold interviews. We need to know that the person is committed and is not taking it slightly and really wants to invest in themselves,” Ramez explains, “So, the embassy funded it and hosted the graduation and the ambassador of Ireland handed the certificates to the graduates.”
The graduates are the reason the program was a success, and because of that, I wanted to get their perspective on it. So, I spoke to Salaheldin Maher, a 29 year old who suffers from instability in movement and works as a full-time accountant while pursuing his passion for helping people in his part-time job in the guild for people with disabilities.
“What was the dream you wanted to achieve, why did you enroll in SEED?” I ask him.
“Well… I am a person who believes that education is the basis of everything in life,” Salaheldin says, “You have to keep moving forward and improve your skills. Your learning skills, your education skills, and technology skills. I love technology… so when I saw that SEED program offered workshops in things like soft skills, which is something I have always loved since I was young, I decided to join”
“And what were those workshops like?”
“They were a lot. They offered workshops in things like emotional intelligence, problem solving, communication skills, and soft skills. But they were very fun,” he says, “they encouraged us to work together, not alone. And when we would work alone, it would be for activities that would help in our own personal growth. There was one activity that aimed for us to find our passion. For me…that was amazing”
Mohamed Amr Mahsoub, 25, who suffers from shivers and anger issues couldn’t help but agree on the effect the workshops had on him.
“I want a career related to management or accounting. So, I really enjoyed the presentation skills workshop; we had to choose a topic and present it in groups. The communication skills workshop also taught us how to communicate with others without any misunderstandings”
While both Salaheldin and Mohamed wanted to make careers in the fields of managing and accounting, Aya Fatouh, 22, had a different kind of dream that her blindness couldn’t stop her from achieving.
“I love radio and always wanted to work as a radio presenter or producer, so I thought that SEED would help me improve my skills to work in a field like this,'' Aya tells me.
“And what was your experience there like?”
“At first I was like I’m going to go and try it. I wasn’t so sure. But the trainers were so good and they taught us a lot. Also, the fact that they offered soft skills was a deal breaker for me.”
“Was the curriculum of the program specific to each of your disabilities?” I ask her.
“No, we all had the same curriculum, but it all comes down to you. You have to implement the skills you learn to your condition. So, the trainers help us a lot with that, they help us find the best way things would work for us.”
SEED has affected and touched the lives of all 17 of its graduates. It made them learn how to cope and depend on themselves in a different way.
“And what changed in your life after this experience?” I ask Salaheldin.
“My perspective on things. I became more flexible in how I deal with my problems. Not only when it comes to work, but also personally,” he says.
“Your life will definitely change, having a disability is not something that you should be ashamed of. It is something that should give you more power and endurance, SEED program will help you improve your skills,” Mohamed tells me as he answers the interview’s last question.
SEED aims to graduate four classes each year. The program will also be connected with different companies to educate them on dealing with people with disabilities. With Helm’s next big project, Helm Academy, which is an academy with a new campus that is specifically designed for training, it looks like Helm is not slowing down any time soon; it is never giving up on its dream of helping people with disabilities lead a life where they can achieve their dreams.
What's your dream?
How do you plan to achieve your dream? What do you think of Helm's Seed Program? Do you know anyone who has been affected by Helm? Tell us your thoughts in the comments down below!