Students from Qatar Foundation’s Awsaj Academy celebrate International Friendship Day
These cruel words were thrown at Maryam Hamad Alibrahim. But before she could respond, she heard someone say, “This girl that you are making fun of because of her inability to walk is smarter than you. Having challenges does not mean she deserves any less appreciation.” This was Maryam’s friend Noof Jassim Al Bader, standing up strong in support of her friend.
Maryam and her friends, who are ninth grade students at At Awsaj Academy, a part of Qatar Foundation’s Pre-University Education, are well-known within the school for their friendship. Always together, facing life and its everyday challenges with strength, compassion, and confidence – both inside and outside of school.
A better life
On the International Day of Friendship, held on July 30 every year, Maryam and her friends recount fond memories, talking about how their friendship was born at Awsaj Academy, and over the years, has continued to grow, building their self-confidence. These friendships were not restricted to school only; they expanded beyond – into the wider world.
Maryam says, “I was born with a condition called quadriplegia, causing stiffness in my body. And the condition affects all four limbs, which means I have to use a wheelchair. I faced a lot of challenges when I was younger. But then I met my friends, who changed my life, helping me transform challenges into opportunities. They made me feel welcome, and part of a group.
I may be a person with special needs, but I still need friends who accept me as I am, support me, make me smile. I’m grateful to have them, and I will treasure their friendships for life.
“I may be a person with special needs, but I still need friends who accept me as I am, support me, make me smile. I’m grateful to have them, and I will treasure their friendships for life.”
From the day they met, none of them ever felt lonely. Inseparable, they spent all their time together – at lunch, during break time, in the library. And outside the school, they shopped together, visited parks, and went to the cinema.
Maryam’s disability did not stop her friends from taking her outdoors – even if they had to make more of an effort – their concern was only to make her happy.
Noof said that the first time she met Maryam, she noticed how smart and honest Maryam was. And for these reasons, she asked if they could be friends. Since then, they have been inseparable.
Through Maryam, I realized the true value of friendship, and how a wheelchair cannot come in the way of that. If someone says a hurtful word, I defend her
“Through Maryam, I realized the true value of friendship, and how a wheelchair cannot come in the way of that. If someone says a hurtful word, I defend her,” says Noof.
Maryam says that she has great confidence in her capabilities, and not easily hurt by words or bullies. “The challenge is not in an issue itself, but being helpless in the face of these challenges, and letting the judgement of others affect you – that is the challenge. My friends make me stronger.”
Maryam has made my life better. At school, I was always shy, and found it difficult to express myself. But she has helped me to come out of my shell
When Maryam had surgery on her left hand, she stayed in the hospital for four days, which kept her away from school for a week. But her friends did not miss a chance to meet her. They visited her every day. Maryam Al Maadeed was one of them.
“That day, she was lying in bed with a pure smile on her face. The difficult surgery did not make her lose her faith in life. She inspired me without saying a single word,” says Maryam Al Maadeed, describing that day as the start of a wonderful friendship.
“Maryam has made my life better. At school, I was always shy, and found it difficult to express myself. But she has helped me to come out of my shell.”
And even though the pandemic has meant Maryam and her friends have been unable to see each other in-person, they have continued to connect online – discussing everyday concerns, the upcoming academic year, reminiscing about some of their favorite memories.
Maryam and her friends are hoping to graduate together, and eventually go to the same university. And while no one can predict what the future holds, no matter what, the girls will remain friends, because, as Maryam says, “we are stronger together; we are happier together.”