Disability is not inability

dg11By Jamil Khan | DUBAI

AS PART of its CSR activities, a private firm in the UAE is striving to create disability-friendly opportunities within its workplace for people with special needs.
Setting out an exclusive programme for special needs people, the Desert Group currently employs 32 young adults with varying levels of disability.
The group provides them with professional regular training at a dedicated centre and these employees are now contributing on equal terms with any other able-bodied employee.
At the forefront for its Special Needs CSR initiative, the Desert Group leads the way amongst private organisations and partners with Dubai’s Knowledge Human Development Authority (KHDA), the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Community Development Authority (CDA).
In an exclusive interview with The Gulf Today, Michael Mascarenhas, Group CEO of the organisation, shared the firm’s commitment to people with varying disabilities as well as the innovative strategies that it continually develops to transform barren desert land into green areas.
He also spoke about research programmes being followed to help provide sustainable solutions in the fields of agriculture, landscaping and the environment.dg1
Reem Al Ghaith, a senior member of the group, has championed this programme since 2006 and is all set to start an expanded training schedule in 2015 for people with Special Needs.
“Through this programme, we will develop our current in-house facility into a vocational training centre and help provide guidance to a much greater number of special needs students in various horticultural and agricultural skills. We will work with government organisations such as municipalities and private sector landscape and agricultural companies to provide job opportunities to these trained special needs people,” Michael explained.
The idea, according to him, is to create a friendly environment for them to be integrated into mainstream society as independent and beneficial members of society and to help provide an income to their families.
The firm has long been known as a pioneer in the field of horticulture and landscape construction in the UAE since its inception in 1988.
A good percentage of the ornamental palms, trees and plants now being used in the UAE have been introduced over the years by its team. The founder of the company, Julian Lee, introduced the green revolution to the country after setting up the firm in Dubai in 1988.
Under his direct guidance, the firm has designed and installed the gardens for the Hilton Beach Club, one of the many projects that helped to convert bare construction sites into green, beautiful and attractive landscaped areas.
“Our landscaping projects vary from schemes deep in the deserts to islands and sea shore sites such as the Madinat Jumeirah, Bab Al Shams, the One and Only and other similar beach front hotels,” said Mascarenhas. In addition to native plant species, it is surprising for many people to find out that it is possible to grow such a wide variety of ornamental plants and trees in the Arabian Peninsula.
“We have compiled a significant book, ‘Landscape Plants of Arabia’, that documents around 600 ornamental plants, which provides complete information about each species. The book is being added to with new plants as the process of detailed discovery continues,” he pointed out.
The group is also developing a book on the use of native plants in landscaping as well as a volume on water plants.
Responding to a question about the amount of agricultural and horticultural chemicals and harmful substances used for planting in the region, Mascarenhas pointed out that it was common for companies to import composts, fertilisers and chemicals to cater to the growing local demand.
However, this practice could result in inappropriate insecticide application, the presence of unknown pests and diseases in foreign composts and fertilisers that could become harmful to the local environment through over use.
“We came up with our own formulated, locally manufactured, products such as fertilisers, chemicals, potting soils and other items which are organic and result in reducing the carbon footprint,” he added.
Michael, an Oxford Alumni and an FCA, who has been in leadership roles cross-nationally and across varied sectors, states that his job is to create an enabling environment where innovation and change is embraced. His commitment to the Groups CSR programme is resolute. “We must learn to give back to society.”
-Published in The Gulf Today-Sharjah | Jan 04, 2015

~ by jamilkhan on June 13, 2015.

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