Google SketchUp for Down Syndrome

March 23, 2008

Inspired by Project Spectrum which aims at “[helping] people with autism take advantage of their visual and spatial gifts” I selected SketchUp as the program to teach to a 17-year-old girl at Resala who has down syndrome.

Today it was my second session with her. Last session was exactly one week a go. I was astonished with how much and how clearly she remembered the steps for doing almost everything I had taught her during our last session. I have been delivering SketchUp training sessions to regular people with normal mental abilities and none of them ever remembered what I had given him/her in a past session in such detail.

Not only was it that one complete week had passed since the last session, but also this girl did not have SketchUp installed yet on her computer at home, which means she did not practice at all between the two sessions! That was an amazing thing for me to see and I have learnt a lot from it. It seems that such kids have special mental abilities and hidden talents that only need to be tapped into in order to reveal themselves.

During today’s session, I invited her father to stay with us during the training telling him that perhaps he can learn the program too himself. I thought of it as some sort of family learning which is one method of promoting better learning. He was totally surprised by what his daughter was able to do with SketchUp. As the session progressed, he told me that I had a lot of patience in teaching. To me, I do not see it as patience but I see it more of an appreciation of the varied skills and potential of others whom might lack some aspects of your mental abilities yet exceed you in others.

Orphans Trip to Al Azhar Park

February 13, 2008

Yesterday a group of volunteers from Resala and myself took a group of 18 orphan boys from an NGO and went for a trip to Al Azhar Park.

Egyptian Boy Smiling

The kids, who wore around four and a half years old, enjoyed the park a lot. They were so excited playing with the slides.

Boy Sliding

We had a lot of fun at the park with those little kids. Two of the volunteers sat down and told the kids a story with puppets in their hands. The boys enjoyed the puppets and interacted energetically with the two volunteers that were telling the story.

Trip to Africa Park

February 10, 2008

Yesterday I accompanied a group of volunteers and went with the deaf and children with developmental disabilities from Resala Nasr City for a trip to Africa Park, which is an open zoo on the Cairo-Alexandria desert road around 65 Km from Alexandria. The two employees responsible for the deaf and children with developmental disabilities accompanied us. We took a bus from in front of Resala Nasr City. We were around 45 in the bus.

Lama

It was my first time to go to Africa Park. We took a small two-car ‘train’ which was had metal windows wish small openings like a cage. The ‘train’ took us round the open zoo and we sow different kinds of animals during the trip. At some locations, we stopped by and went off the train to get a closer look at the animals.

Parrot

The most interesting part of this trip was the part where we passed by the monkeys. The monkeys were naughty and extended their hands through the metal cage-like windows of the train snatching the sandwiches from our hands. It was so exciting and a much more thrilling experience than going to an amusement park.

Monkeys

After completing the exciting trip around the open zoo, we then took a boat which glided along a beautiful lake in the park. It was a pleasant and relaxing experience.

Lake

The deaf had a lot of fun in the park. They really enjoyed the trip a lot. Because they rely basically on their eyes as the main source of input from the outside world, the deaf found the trip particularly entertaining. I believe it was useful as well for them because it made them see and experience new things they never other wise see in their daily life.

Raising Children at Resala

February 1, 2008

Yesterday I attended the second session of a series of sessions about Raising Children. This series of sessions aims at providing sound scientific knowledge coupled with practical methods for raising children and dealing with them in appropriate ways to build their personalities correctly.

The sessions are mainly target volunteers who are in the big brother / big sister program at Resala in which each volunteer selects one of the orphaned children that reside at Resala and becomes his big brother becomes or her big sister. Nevertheless, the sessions were attended by some others who wanted to know more about how to bring up their own children.

Yesterday’s session discussed discussed preventive methods that a parent should use in order to avoid wrong behavior from her children. The second part of the session discussed alternative methods for punishment of children that may be exercised whenever the preventive measures have failed.

The first session, which took place a week ago, talked about fundamental aspects of child rearing. The session discussed the basic needs of children and how to understand such needs and satisfy them.

The approach of the sessions was highly interactive. The speaker asked questions to the audience and related real cases to demonstrate the conceps she was discussing. She also answered the many questions asked by the audience during the sessions.

Literacy Training

January 25, 2008

Yesterday I attended a train the trainer session at the literacy department of the Nasr City branch of Resala. It was my first time to attend such a session.

The session discussed the literacy program offered to illiterate people. The focal point of the session was how to motivate learners and what approach to take when dealing with them. The session also covered some common issues that face the person who is teaching them how to read and write.

According to the session, some illiterate people come for the training in order to get a literacy certificate which is required by some job they want to apply for. Others come because they want to continue their education. Still others attend the training just to get to know new people and perhaps gain some extra cash upon passing their literacy exam in addition to the other positive reinforcement methods that Resala uses to motivate them to continue learning.

Happiness

January 2, 2008

Happiness is a feeling I experienced yesterday while playing with kids during a visit organized by Resala to Al Azhar Park.

Child Smiling

The Nasr City branch of Resala arranged the trip for the deaf people and their families as well as for children with developmental disabilities. I was among the lucky volunteers who accompanied them during the trip. We took off in a large bus from in front of Resala yesterday morning, spent a wonderful time at Al Azhar park then returned back to Resala after sunset.

Cute Little Girl

Very Cute Girl

Cute Girl

Volunteers who had attended training in sign language at Resala started conversing with the deaf during the trip using whatever signs they knew. Two of the volunteers who had no previous knowledge of sign language tried to ‘talk’ to the deaf as well and were so pleased in being able to make some sort of conversations with them. I tried to brush up on my sign language knowledge and was able to communicate to some extent with a number of the deaf yet used a translator when things got too complex for me to comprehend. A young kind of around 12 years old was the best translator. His mother who accompanied us during the trip was deaf.

Resala Deaf

Resala Group Photo

The kids also asked me to take group photos of them.

Girls Group Photo

Boys Group Photo

One of the kids asked me to take a photo of him while he was dong a stunt. Kids started to gather around me each wanting me to take a photo of him or her doing the same stunt.

Child Stunt

Girl Stunt

One of the kids who was around 5 years old kept coming to me all the time and moved with me as I moved. He asked me to run with him which I did. When I sat down on the grass he came to me again and told me “I want to sit with you.” One of the young girls, a 6th grader, gave me a flower. The nice thing about kids is that when they show that they like you they are genuine about it.

Girl Swinging

Near the end of the trip, the kids sat down on the grass and started singing. I guess I should have had an MP3 recorder with me to record their wonderful songs. The trip was amazing, I am really looking forward to the next one with those same kids.

Girl Pausing

How to Grow Mushrooms

December 18, 2007

A few weeks ago, I attended a short yet concentrated course on how to grow mushrooms. I attended the training at the Food Technology Research Institute, a government funded research center in Egypt. The training continued for five days and involved both lectures and hand on practice.

Before attending that training, I scored the net for information about growing mushrooms. I did find a huge amount of information related to this in online forums, PDF files and regular web pages not to mention videos on YouTube discussing the matter. The most practical information perhaps was the one I found in online forums because it was from people who have had first hand experience in growing mushroom or trying to grow it. Despite the huge amount of information I found online about growing mushrooms, yet I kind of got lost a midst all this ocean of information. Moreover, I did not find a complete reference that nailed down the specifics and focused on the practical side specially in relation to growing mushrooms in Egypt.

Although I am a big fan of self learning and a strong believer in its merits, yet after attending that course in growing mushrooms at the Food Technology Research Institute, I came to the conclusion that nothing could beat the direct learning method which involves taking information from the people who have the practical experience as well as the scientific knowledge to back it. The training I attended was delivered by a group of researchers who are PhD holders as well as a consultant who worked in marketing mushrooms.

Distributing Meet in Ezbet El Haggana

December 15, 2007

Today I went with a few volunteers from the Nasr City branch of Resala to Ezbet El Haggana taking with us bags of meet to distributed on poor families there.

Window and Brick Wall

It is only four days till Eid El Adha. While distributing the meet bags on poor families today, one of the guides who led us to the homes of those poor families told us that the price of meet is 30 LE per kg (in Ezbet El Haggana), something which poor families there cannot afford.

Ezbet El Haggana Child

Free Programming Course at Resala

December 13, 2007

A short while ago I started delivering an Introduction to Programming course at the Nasr City branch of Resala. Computer courses at Resala are for free and are delivered by volunteers.

Hello World

I really enjoyed delivering that course a lot. Attendees of the course were mostly students of the Faculty of Engineering, Al Azhar University which happens to be in Nasr City. Many of the volunteers at the Nasr City branch of Resala are from Al Azhar University, perhaps this is one good benefit of having the 32ed branch of Resala open in Nasr City in particular.

In the introduction to computer programming course, I focused on the fundamental concepts of programming using the C language as the vehicle upon which students would learn the basic concepts of programming. The course covered programming building blocks such as variables, loops, conditional statements, functions as we?l as mathematical, conditional and logical operators among other fundamental programming concepts.

I have also made some of the source code used during the labs available online at my Born Trainer website.

Resala Festival at Al Azhar Park

December 12, 2007

Yesterday I went with other volunteers from the Nasr City branch of Resala to Al Azhar Park. We took a bus from Resala then passed by an orphanage from which we took a number of orphans who were around two years old. We then headed up to Al Azhar Park. Another Resala bus brought another group of orphans from another orphanage. A group of the orphans were also handicapped. Among those who came with us for the trip were children with developmental disabilities.

Painted Face

The idea behind that day was to make orphans and children with disabilities feel happy, feel loved and spend a nice time at Al Azhar Park.

Volunteers Wearing Masks

Resala volunteers participated in various activities during that day to accomplish that goal. Two of Resala’s female volunteers sat down and painted faces of children which came to them one after the other to have their faces painted. Another two male volunteers slipped into animal masks and suits played and danced with the children who were very happy to see such colorful masks.

Group of Children

Music and songs played in the background while two groups of volunteers carried out some small competitions between the kids such as hopping while wearing a bag or while having one’s foot tied to that of another child. Winners got presents. We also had meals for the children. At the end there was some sort of show for the kids acted by volunteers, it was hilarious.

Children in a Line

Seeing the festivities and hearing the music, other kids who were at the park joined us. Although the two year old children were a bit drowsy the time we took them from their orphanage, on our way back from the Park they were extremely active and kept sining in the bus all sorts of children songs. It was amazing and for me perhaps was the best part of the whole day.

Girl holding Prize