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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH — Saudi show-jumping Olympian Ramzy Al-Duhami brought joy to the faces of dozens of children when he visited the Kingdom’s leading school for youngsters born with Down Syndrome.
Al-Duhami, who won bronze at the London 2012 Olympics, was greeted with hugs and cheers from thrilled students when he and wife Sara Baban visited the Saut: The Voice of Down Syndrome Society school in Riyadh earlier this month.
The pair have been announced as ambassadors for the non-profit learning facility, which aims to empower young people with Down Syndrome and has been an incredible support to thousands of families from across Saudi Arabia for more than 20 years.
It was a role that Ramzy and Sara were delighted to take on — and one they marked with their recent visit to the school.
Ramzy said: “The children, families and staff at Saut are a source of great inspiration to Sara and I. It was a joy to visit the school again and see so many smiling faces, especially when talking about horses and equestrian.
“To be named as ambassadors for the school is a great honor. It will be our pleasure working alongside everyone at Saut to help continue its proud history of empowering individuals with Down Syndrome, all across the Kingdom.”
To further celebrate their partnership, Ramzy and Sara are showcasing a special selection of photographs of the pair with students at this weekend’s Diriyah Equestrian Festival, which takes place at the couple’s Al-Duhami Farm equestrian center on the outskirts of Riyadh — and where the school’s pupils and their families will be guests of honor.
Continued Ramzy: “We can’t wait to welcome all the children and their families to this weekend’s Diriyah Equestrian Cup, where a fantastic photo exhibition will pay tribute to all that is great about Saut; from its brilliant staff and facilities, to its most important feature – the children themselves.”
Fatima Malak is the CEO of Saut. She spoke of the delight the pair brought to the entire school with their visit, and invitation to this weekend’s competition.
She said: “As a non-profit organization, we are keen to get ambassadors to be the voice of our kids and help raise awareness of Down Syndrome. Ramzy and Sara are great fits for ambassadors because they represent their field with passion and compassion, and they do the same for our kids.
“They have been so generous by inviting our kids and their families to come and attend the Diriyah Equestrian Festival. They told us they really want us to participate and to help spread the word of our school to as many people as possible, allowing us to serve more kids with Down Syndrome.
“Sara and Ramzy will be our first ambassadors. When they came and visited the school they had a great time, taking pictures with the kids and showing us so much support. They were so passionate and have invited all our kids to ride their horses. Their sense of community service is beyond fantastic and is something that everyone should know about. They want to help and believe all individuals should be able to live a quality life – and they want to contribute to that.
According to a study by McKinsey & Company, there are over 25,000 individuals with Down Syndrome in Saudi Arabia. Saut believes that opportunities for inclusion and integration amongst people with Down Syndrome are limited – and the school aims to change that.
At the school, staff and volunteers provide specialized educational and vocational services to individuals with Down Syndrome from birth to 21-years-old. The long-term strategy is to build a network of five more establishments across Saudi Arabia by 2030, allowing the school to reach 45% of Saudi children with Down Syndrome – more than 11,000 young people.
The latest step in raising the awareness needed to catalyze that growth will be the photographic exhibit at this weekend’s festival.
Moving into the second and final of two weekends, the Diriyah Equestrian Festival will welcome an estimated 150 riders, 150 grooms, 50 officials, 300 companions and trainers and 150 crew members.
Held under the umbrella of the month-long Diriyah Season, points earned from competing at the festival will count toward riders’ qualification for next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo — plus the Equestrian World Cup.
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