One of the most influential women in the Middle East has joined forces with Perkins to advocate for greater educational opportunities for children in the region who are blind or visually impaired.
Princess Ameerah Al-Taweel of Saudi Arabia, who is widely known as a philanthropist and an advocate for social change, will serve as Special Perkins Ambassador to the Middle East. The announcement was made during a visit to Perkins by the princess in March.
“I’m very honored (Perkins) created something they’ve never done before and made me a special ambassador to the Middle East,” Princess Ameerah said. “I’m working now with Perkins to discover their programs, and I’ll be connecting them to the right people and creating awareness.”
As ambassador, the princess will advocate for increased access to high-quality education and services for children who are blind, deafblind or visually impaired with multiple disabilities in the Arab region. She will also help raise money for new programs and enhanced outreach to parents of children who are blind.
“One of the main reasons I came to Perkins is that we want (our) schools to have much more advanced ways of learning and teaching,” she said. “Hopefully, we’ll be collaborating with Perkins to take what you do here, which is an excellent teaching program, and bring it to the (Arab) region.”
Princess Ameerah is the chairwoman and co-founder of the Tasamy Social Initiatives Center, a foundation that supports social entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia. She said her upbringing inspired her philanthropic work.
“Ever since I was a child, my mom made sure I knew that there are a lot of issues in the world – and if we don’t take it upon ourselves to help, then nothing will get solved,” she said. “When I became a princess, it was a great platform for me to help other people. I feel fortunate and at the same time very responsible to do so.”
Perkins President and CEO Dave Power said Princess Ameerah will help Perkins accomplish its mission of making sure every child around the world has an opportunity to learn.
“Perkins has a strong history of international partnerships in many regions around the globe,” he said. “With the generous and thoughtful participation of Princess Ameerah, children in her home region will have more hope and greater opportunities to learn, achieve and become productive, contributing members of their communities.”
During her three-day visit to Perkins’ campus, Princess Ameerah spent time in the Lower School, Deafblind and Secondary education programs, observing teaching methods and interacting with students. Her schedule included meetings with Perkins leadership, lunch with Educational Leadership Program participants from around the world, and an interview with students on Radio Perkins.
While touring the Deafblind Program’s vocational training area, Princess Ameerah received an unusual request from Antonio, a student who was rinsing cans for recycling.
After introductions had been made, he asked her to sing “Happy Birthday” in Arabic, in honor of his 18th birthday. Princess Ameerah obliged, before signing “goodbye” and moving on to her next event.
Younger Perkins students seemed especially delighted to meet a real princess.
“I was at the Early Learning Center and everyone was asking me if I had a dress or a tiara,” laughed Princess Ameerah. “I had to tell them that I live a pretty normal life.”
The experience of touring Perkins and meeting students reinforced her commitment to help the blind and visually impaired communities in her home country, Princess Ameerah said.
“I’m so energized and I’m so excited because I (realize) if Perkins can change this much in a kid’s life, imagine what (Perkins) can do back home,” she said. “I guess that’s the thing that’s going to keep you going no matter how frustrating things are – when you remember the impact you can have on a kid’s life.”