The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) – a Sharjah-based global humanitarian charity dedicated to helping refugees and people in need worldwide – is to establish a large scale secondary school for students with hearing impairment in the West Bank, Palestine. ‘The Big Heart School’ aims to help those with hearing disabilities improve their academic performance through the provision of specialist educational facilities that cater to their personal and academic requirements.
An agreement was signed recently at the headquarters of the Municipality of Qalqilya to construct the school at a total cost of $2.5 million, with the initiative coming as part of TBHF’s efforts to support the Palestinian people and to alleviate the ordeals of in-need community segments in the Occupied Territories. Specifically, the project is aimed at improving the academic integration and performance of students with hearing impairments, thereby enabling them to lead dignified lives at present and in the future.
Located in the strategic northern West Bank city of Qalqilya, The Big Heart School will be administered in partnership with Welfare Association, Palestine’s largest non-profit organisation. Serving as a meeting point between all Palestinian cities, Qalqilya will facilitate access to 45,000 students of different age groups with hearing difficulties in the West Bank..
The Big Heart School project, extending across an area of 2,000 square metres, will include a high school and a dormitory designed to serve students 5-18 years of age from all Palestinian cities and governorates. The school will include all facilities necessary for education, care and rehabilitation for its students and will be fully equipped in accordance with the highest technical standards and educational requirements. The move has been widely praised by Palestinians who have expressed their gratitude and appreciation for the humanitarian initiatives implemented by TBHF in their homeland.
“Inspired by the vision of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of TBHF, we seek to implement projects that have a sustainable impact and which contribute meaningfully to community development and empowerment. This project is one of the most important initiatives that we are implementing in Palestine as it addresses important gaps and needs of children with hearing impairment and provides them with an education that matches that of their hearing peers,” said Mariam Al Hammadi, Director of TBHF.
Al Hammadi stressed the importance of the project in opening up new horizons for students with hearing difficulties as they now have the opportunity to pursue quality secondary stage education beyond the primary stage that they were formerly restricted to. This, she said, will encourage them to either continue university education or take up a vocational discipline, which will help them to better serve their community and actively participate in their country’s development, as well as ensure better lives for them.
Dr. Tafeeda Jarbawi, Director General of the Welfare Association expressed her thanks and appreciation to TBHF for its generous support and funding of the school, which will comprise five floors featuring 16-18 classrooms, a library, computer rooms, dormitories for male and female students and a section to provide examinations and therapy for students with expressive and receptive language difficulties.
Set for completion within two years, the Big Heart School will help tackle the low literacy rate among deaf students in the Palestinian community. There are currently 12 schools containing 700 male and female students with hearing loss in the West Bank. Affiliated to civil organisations, these provide education up until grade 8 only.
In June 2015, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi launched The Big Heart Foundation to coincide with World Refugee Day. It followed her decision to transform what was then The Big Heart Campaign into a global humanitarian foundation. The move aimed to redouble efforts to help refugees and people in need worldwide, with the new foundation adding significantly to the UAE’s rich portfolio of humanitarian initiatives.