Inside the hall of Saydet El Inaya church in Maghdouche, many families of children and adults with special needs and learning difficulties began to gather. Yet there was one family who caught my attention.
“I am very excited to be at NDU. I will definitely do well on my first semester… Whatever [tests] Mrs. Lama gives me, I will do my best to get a perfect score…
I will do public speaking just like the TED Talks, so I am super excited to be at this university.”
Every year in February, Night to Shine sweeps the world, bringing prom to individuals with special needs. It’s a joyful night to remind them that they are royalty in God’s eyes. With the support of the Tim Tebow Foundation, over 600 global sites hosted more than 100,000 individuals with special needs to illustrate God’s love for them.
Created as a instructional stopgap due to the COVID lockdowns, SKILD’s educational videos for parents with special needs have been going viral throughout the Arab world.
Nine years ago, an inclusive Lebanon was a dream of many parents with children whose special needs denied them access to educational opportunities, social experiences, and economic independence. Hiding your child with special needs was the norm. Whenever you took him or her out meant that you were going to be shamed and ridiculed. The SKILD Center is a dream come true for its founder, Dr. Nabil Costa, also a parent to a child with special needs, and for many educators, specialists, and visionaries.
Household dynamics shifted as we entered new times where social distancing, online learning, and working remotely became the norm. With the new living conditions and constant negative news, anxiety and stress are bound to knock at our doors. Among the many challenges we are facing, the main psycho-emotional one is finding creative ways to cope with our stress.
Fifty stars, fifty dreams, fifty chances for a bright future, if we only give them the right spotlight. Just like diamonds in the rough, young men and women with special needs are buried under mountains of neglect, shame, and social segregation, waiting for their light to be revealed and illuminate the world.
Smiles, crowns, genuine tears, and renewed hope: this is what we witnessed this year at SKILD. As our kings and queens were crowned at February’s Night to Shine, they walked down the red carpet into their kingdom, the kingdom that Jesus called them into, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The peace and joy planted in our hearts by the smiles on the faces of children with special needs and their families was the fuel we needed to continue the year.
“‘If you are able? All things are possible for the one who believes’ … Jesus gently took his hand and raised him to his feet, and he stood up.” When the disciples asked Jesus why they could not heal the boy, Jesus answered, “This kind can only be resolved through prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:14-29).