THE Chancellor of the Higher Colleges of Technology, Sheik Nayan Mabarak Al Nayan today gave a major boost to the Sail Arabia project with a pledge to sponsor the project and provide funds to build a unique Arabian sailing dhow.
The Sail Arabia project, supported by Higher Colleges of Technology, is the initiative of Hans Horlings a business teacher at Sharjah HCT.
Addressing participants on the third day of the international Education Without Borders seminar at the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Sheikh Nayan stunned guests by announcing that he would sponsor the innovative Arabian sailing project.
Organizer of the Sail Arabia trust Mr. Horlings was ecstatic after the announcement and thanked Sheik Nayan for his generosity and desire to be involved with a project that develops learning and understanding among young people.
“Emirates students will be the big winners when the Sail Arabia project kicks off its bold plans to promote fellowship and understanding between able-bodied and disabled students as they sail the high seas together in a traditional dhow.”
Sail Arabia is now in a position to put their plans into action to build and sail a traditional Arab sailing vessel with facilities for both disabled and fully able people in order to promote the integration of physically challenged and able bodied people. It will also provide a challenging and rewarding program of personal and character development for all participants.
“This is incredibly good news not only for the Sharjah Colleges of Higher Technology but also for all students in the Gulf region, whether they have an interest in sailing or not. The Sail Arabia initiative will provide ample opportunities for young people to learn and experience a variety of challenges and to learn exciting new possibilities, Mr. Horlings said.
Already three lucky UAE national students from Sharjah Higher Colleges and a chaperone sailed around the Canary Islands from Gran Canaria to Gomera, Tenerife and back to Gran Ganaria for a working week on a tall ship.
The Sail Arabia project is based on a similar concept operated by the UK-based Jubilee Sailing Trust. Both share the same ideals in promoting understanding between able-bodied and disabled people by introducing them to challenging experiences and developing life long experiences.
Addressing the EWB conference, JST director Amanda Butcher said she welcomed the close association of the Jubilee Sailing Trust and Sail Arabia.
“We have already worked together and we look forward to working closely together in the future,” she said. “We share similar outcomes. Both organizations focus on people’s abilities rather than their disabilities. We try to make it possible for everyone to experience and stretch their capabilities.”
The learning experiences of disabled students are often marked by difficulties unimagined by those who are not disabled. Learning about the struggles of the disabled opens a whole new world of experiences for those who are not disabled and it broadens the outlook on life of both.
“We are working together to change lives,” Ms Butcher said.
In launching the Sail Arabia project, Ms Butcher stressed the need for a uniquely Arabian maritime project and urged UAE sponsors to get involved. Sheikh Nayan, the honored guest at the seminar presentation inquired about the Sail Arabia project and indicated enthusiasm for the plan.
To thunderous applause, Sheik Nayan told the stunned audience that he would personally support Sail Arabia with its plans to build and operate the unique yet traditional Arabian sailing dhow.
Mr. Horlings was unable to immediately confirm the extent of Sheik Nayan’s pledge or the cost of building the large wooden vessel but indicated that it “involved millions of dirhams”.
“It is my hope and desire that by the time the next Education Without Borders seminar comes around in two years’ time, the Sail Arabia vessel will be flying her flags around the waters of the Gulf,” Mr. Horlings said.
“Now we are in a position to move forward with our plans. The Sail Arabia project will be a major boost to increasing knowledge and understanding about the UAE’s maritime heritage and we will also be able to continue working towards increasing disability awareness and promoting understanding and tolerance among people.”
The main objectives of the Sail Arabia project is to promote the integration of people of all physical abilities and the promotion of Arabian Maritime Heritage through the challenge and adventure of sailing a large Arabian dhow. Sail Arabia will include sailing programs for a mix of abilities, educational programs for universities and colleges, cultural programs and a visitor’s centre.
The key to all of this, Mr. Horlings said was the integration of people of all physical abilities and the promotion of Arabian maritime heritage especially for young people in the UAE. Together with our partners, the Jubilee Sailing Trust, and the Higher Colleges of Technology, we have the expertise to make this a fantastic experience for students of all abilities.”
“I have a passion for sailing. I have sailed all my life in boats and vessels of all sizes and descriptions and as a teacher I also have a passion for educating young people.
“In this way I am able to combine both my love of sailing and my desire to see young people improve themselves to the best of their abilities. This is a dream come true for me but I realize that there is still a lot of hard work ahead to get the project afloat.”