When Mai Ahmed Ameen Elkoduse talks about her students, her eyes light up and she breaks into a brilliant smile. She bubbles with enthusiasm and pride.
“See,” she said, scrolling to an image on her cellphone of a happy 13-year-old girl sitting in a plush red seat in an auditorium, wearing a medal. The girl – a student at the Nida Society in Cairo, Egypt, where Elkoduse works as a special educator – is deafblind and struggles with behavior issues.
“I wanted her to just sit and relax,” Elkoduse said. The girl liked to color and craft, so they created an art piece, stamping colorful designs onto paper.
“It took a lot of time, but she loved to learn,” Elkoduse said.
The student won an art contest for children with special needs and appeared in the newspaper and on television.
“She became alive again,” Elkoduse said. “Her mother was flying with happiness! It’s an amazing feeling, when I succeed with a child.”
Elkoduse has taught students with deafblindness, visual impairment and multiple disabilities at the Nida Society for three years. She also works part-time at the Tiba Center for Habilitation.
One of 15 participants in this year’s Educational Leadership Program, Elkoduse will spend nine months at Perkins’ Watertown, Massachusetts, campus studying deafblind and multiple disability education. She’ll then return to Egypt, where her manager, AmalEzzat Aly, is also an ELP graduate.
“She encouraged me to take this opportunity,” Elkoduse said.
Elkoduse graduated from Ain Shams University in 2007 with a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology, and then studied psychology services, specializing in clinical psychology, for two years.
In 2012, she found herself job searching and had two interviews on the same day: one with a prominent clinical psychology professor and one with the Nida Society. Something in her heart told her to choose children with disabilities.
“In that day, my life changed,” she said. “I fell in love with them. When I met the first child who was deafblind, I thought, I have to do everything I can to help them.”
Elkoduse will continue her work with children with visual impairment and multiple disabilities, from infants to teens, when she returns home. She plans to share her new knowledge and organize a team of expert educators to train teachers and advocate for all children with deafblindness and multiple disabilities in Egypt.
“There is little awareness in my country for deafblindness,” she said. “Many children stay at home because there are few places to help them. I want to help my country become aware of these children. They have a right to learn, go to school, work, communicate with their families and friends – to live a good life.”