In a country with few institutions dedicated to serving the needs of the disabled community, Nora Al-Othman’s organization Training Gate International (TGI) is a deeply-appreciated rarity. Founded in 2009, TGI is Kuwait’s leading non-profit for providing the disabled community with employment training and skills development. In 2011, Nora participated in an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) on disability rights. She attributes TGI’s rapid and sustained growth to the management techniques she learned during her IVLP exchange.
When discussing IVLP’s impact on her organization, Nora remarked: “This exchange has greatly aided in my ability to manage Training Gate International, and has strengthened my commitment to providing training opportunities and services to Kuwait’s disabled community.” Through her IVLP exchange, she learned how to incorporate TGI members’ feedback into every aspect of project implementation. This model is unique in Kuwait’s advocacy sector, but Nora’s decision to permit voluntary members to directly influence the management of the organization has helped distinguish TGI as the preeminent disability advocacy NGO in Kuwait.
Nora’s deep connection to her culture and community has been one of TGI’s best assets. Her most noteworthy project was the implementation of Kuwait’s first Dewan for disabled citizens. Dewans are traditional social gatherings that represent a vital part of Kuwait’s society. Dewan Samia, named in honor of the late Mrs. Samia Mohammed Al-Thubaib, who is remembered fondly for her kindness toward disabled youths, is a weekly open forum where the disabled community can share their personal experiences and find solutions to common challenges. What began as a casual assembly has blossomed into a movement for social change. Visits by politicians and advocates to the Dewan permit disabled participants to lobby for positive changes while such visitors learn more about participants’ respective needs.
In 2012, she invited Mobility International USA (MIUSA) to participate in her International Day for Persons with Disabilities program in Kuwait. Three MIUSA members accepted her invitation and played an instrumental role in the program’s success by offering their insight into the evolution of disability rights in the U.S.
Each month, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) Alumni Affairs Division, which supports alumni as they build on their exchange experiences, recognizes one outstanding alumnus or alumna. Throughout October, Nora Al-Othman is that outstanding alumna and her work will be recognized on the International Exchange Alumni website, ECA’s official website which caters to more than one million Department-sponsored exchange alumni worldwide.