09 March 2023
Special Event Marks 15 Year-Collaboration Between VCUarts Qatar and Best Buddies Qatar
Parents, students, teachers and faculty from both entities celebrated with an exhibition
VCUarts Qatar held an event to mark 15 years of its relationship with the Qatar chapter of Best Buddies at its campus in Education City (EC) on March 6.
Teachers, staff, and students and their parents from Al Shafallah Center for Persons with Disability, senior representatives from the United States Embassy in Qatar and from Qatar Foundation (QF) partner universities along with members of the VCUarts Qatar community attended the activity-packed occasion.
VCUarts Qatar was the first Qatar Foundation partner university to set up the Best Buddies College Program Club in Education City. VCUarts Qatar staff member Margarita Zuniga, currently working as the University’s Community Relations Coordinator, along with her children, pioneered the club in the summer of 2008. Since then, VCUarts Qatar’s community regularly dedicated time to organizing art workshops to integrate persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities and delays, providing opportunities that lead to better understanding and acceptance in the wider community.
An exhibition showcasing artwork and designs created during these workshops was part of the celebratory event held last week. The artworks included screen-printed t-shirts, embroidery and framed mixed media pieces.
Laalei-abuAlfain, Executive Director, Al Shafallah Center for Persons with Disability, said, “We are pleased to celebrate 15 years of the relationship between Best Buddies Qatar and VCUarts Qatar. The club at VCUarts Qatar was the first college club focusing on the social inclusion of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, in Qatar. This club, as all Best Buddies clubs aim to do, increases awareness about the rights of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities for social inclusion and integration.”
Reflecting on the impact of the collaboration, Amir Berbić, Dean of VCUarts Qatar, said, “The work this organization has done with us over the past 15 years is remarkable – Best Buddies provides support and friendship to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities – pairing people with special needs with a buddy who is there to offer support, friendship and a sense of belonging. Through their programs they have helped to break down barriers and promote a culture of acceptance and understanding. We look forward to many more years of partnership.”
Omar Nasser Al-Khanji was a special guest speaker at the event, and shared his experience as the first Qatari Best Buddies Pair partner at VCUarts Qatar. He told how meaningful it was to him. He and his paired buddy shared many experiences including being traveling ambassadors for the Qatar program, visiting Washington DC and meeting the American founders of the program.
As per Best Buddies Qatar’s web page, Her Highness Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser established Best Buddies Qatar in 2008, with the aim to integrate people with moderate or mild intellectual and developmental disabilities into education, the workforce and the wider community in the State of Qatar. Best Buddies Qatar does this by providing opportunities for developing their social, cultural and professional skills such as the workshops that have been held at VCUarts Qatar for the past 15 years. The organization operates under the Al Shafallah Center for Persons with Disability.
The Best Buddies Qatar College Program aims to integrate persons between the ages of 18-21 with intellectual disabilities with students without disabilities from similar age groups in colleges and universities, during one academic year.