Sharjah Humanitarian City expands amid rising demand for services from families

Social services hub will have new home in emirate

Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services, which opened in 1979, is set to move to its new headquarters. Photo: SCHS
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Increased demand has meant that a social services hub offering a vital lifeline to families in Sharjah is moving to new Dh500 million headquarters.

The new home of Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services (SCHS) is based on Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Road.

The new centre, covering an area of 10 hectares, marks the dawn of another chapter for SCHS, which operates more than 10 schools, centres, nurseries and departments.

Construction began in November 2019 and was carried out in phases. The move is expected to be completed in the coming weeks.

Among the first projects to undergo construction were the management department, followed by Al Wafa School for Capacity Development and the Autism Centre.

This was followed in phases by the Early Intervention Centre and Al Amal School for the Deaf, the Centre for Development and Empowerment, an Audiology Centre, a Theatre and other support centres providing diverse services.

"The decision to transition to a new headquarters was conceived nearly a decade ago, reflecting our commitment to expanding the scope of our services," said Mona Abdul Karim Al Yafei, director of SCHS.

This move is a direct response to the growing demand for the city’s services and the increase in registration requests from new students eager to join its community, she said.

“There is the pressing issue of long waiting lists, particularly for individuals with autism,” Ms Al Yafei added.

“The waiting list for the Early Intervention Centre alone features hundreds of names underscoring the urgent need for expanded capacity.”

She said the move was undertaken following extensive consultations and evaluations aimed at understanding and planning for the future needs of the city.

“We engaged with each department and centre head to assess the workload and anticipate growth over the next decade," said Ms Al Yafei.

"An example of this is how our Early Intervention Centre head undertook a year-long study in the USA to enhance his skills."

Among the changes at the new centre will be an increased number of classes at Al Wafa School from 20 to 42, to address the demand for places and the ever-growing waiting list.

She also pointed to the burgeoning requests of the Autism Centre, which had hit its maximum capacity of 100 places much more quickly than was expected.

“Despite all [our] efforts, the city can’t accommodate all cases, especially with the recent rise in disabilities,” she said.

"The rise in disability cases can be attributed to a variety of factors, including wars, traffic accidents, and domestic accidents like falls or drownings, which affect children as young as two or three years old, resulting in what we refer to as acquired disabilities."

SCHS employs more than 740 staff members, including 69 disabled employees who have graduated from its programmes.

Another issue many families face is not being able to afford the care needed for loved ones.

That is why SCHS sets a limit on what it charges. An example of which is the Dh30,000 cap on providing services for those with autism.

“The figure was decided on after a comparative study with other centres," said Ms Al Yafei.

She revealed that the vast majority, close to 80 per cent, of parents face financial challenges in affording these services.

"For that reason, SCHS provides support through donations and Zakat funds to cover costs either fully or partially," said Ms Al Yafei.

Updated: March 28, 2024, 9:32 AM