In an unusual expression of thanks, a Qatar-based mother has taken out a paid notice in the newspaper hailing the woman taking care of her special needs son, calling her “the angel that God sent.”
For the past two years, 39-year-old Elizabeth Kamocu has spent day and night helping to look after Karim, a teen who has high-functioning autism.
Her contract is almost finished and she is due to return to her native Kenya, and Kamocu’s employer Mariam Al Rashdi wanted to find a way to express her appreciation for her hard work.
The Omani businesswoman said she decided to go public with her thanks to counter negative media coverage about domestic help abusing children or being mistreated by their employers.
She paid for a notice on the front page of the Community supplement of the English daily Gulf Times last week, featuring a photograph of Kamocu and 16-year-old Karim together.
“Thanks for all the love, care and support you gave my son, who has autism. This is a note from me, as a mother of a young man with special needs, to say thanks for being an angel that God sent to help my son and support him.
Thanks for loving him, accepting him, understanding him and help(ing) him develop by teaching him. I am sure all of Kenya and the entire world will be proud of you one day. God will reward you for taking the best care of my son.”
For her part, Kamocu told Doha News that she was “humbled and overjoyed” by the gesture and “really appreciated” it.
Kamocu was hired by the Al-Rashdi family through an agency.
She worked one-on-one with Karim to help Al Rashdi, who has four other children and runs the Ontario Center for Special Education in Abu Hamour.
Kamoca, a mother of two, had no previous special needs experience, but said she was willing to learn and quickly bonded with Karim, Al Rashdi said.
“It was the first time for Elizabeth to see a special needs person at this age. Elizabeth accepted him immediately and embraced the challenge. You meet people who are scared of your kid and don’t know how to deal with him, but not Elizabeth. Karim too accepted her as his caregiver. The transition was very smooth,” Al Rashdi said.
Kamocu’s arrival in the household came at a difficult time, as Karim was going through puberty and normal teenage issues were compounded by additional challenges stemming from his autism.
According to his mother, he had problems sleeping and would often be up through the night.
Al Rashdi said Kamocu insisted she look after Karim to enable her to sleep.
“She wouldn’t go to sleep until Karim was fast asleep. If I woke up in the middle of the night and went to his room to check on him, I would find her reading or singing to him, stroking his hair and patting his shoulder as he fell asleep, or simply sitting next to him…
“Sometimes she would get up to make him sandwiches or a snack late at night. She did it all with a genuine smile on her face. She treats Karim like a son,” Al Rashdi added.
In return, Kamocu said that caring for Karim had reminded her not to take anything for granted.
Speaking to Doha News, she said, “Karim has given me a chance to know and understand and appreciate everything in life. It’s a never-ending process where every day is a new day with new lessons and joys.”
In addition to taking out the newspaper advertisement, Al Rashdi also contacted the Kenyan Embassy in Qatar.
There, the ambassador Galma Mukhe Boru organized a small ceremony for Kamocu, presenting her with an award and a cash gift.
“The people of Kenya will be proud of you. Kenyan people are known for their friendly, kind and humane nature. You have demonstrated the true spirit of the Kenyan people,” the Qatar Tribune reported him as saying.
Through the public gesture, Al Rashdi said she also wanted to raise awareness of the difficulties of finding a carer for people with special needs, and also to ask families that hire domestic help to think about how they treat them.
“I want you to empathize with them, with the fact that they get off a plane to a foreign country, are hired by people whose customs and traditions they don’t know and yet try to do their best. When we seek out a job, we have contracts that protect us, with our duties and our rights. They (domestic workers) don’t have that.”
“Treat them humanely. You entrust them with your children, the most precious thing in the world, so the least you can do is to treat them well and preserve their dignity.”
Al Rashdi also criticized employers who don’t give their domestic helpers any time off or treat them as social unequals:
“What’s it to you to let your helps walk freely around the mall or anywhere for an hour, to switch off all the daily chores and work and duties and get a break from the routine?
Why is it so out of bounds for them to eat with you at the table, or to sit with you at a restaurant and eat? Why is it such a big deal to get them phones and help them have a social life? Why can’t they be treated like family when they take care of our families for us?”
That said, Al Rashdi said she in turn has been criticized by some people for treating her domestic staff as she would her family. However, she added:
“I am just observing my faith in how I treat everyone, not just house help. The way I treat them reflects my upbringing and what Islam teaches me. And I ask people to know their nannies and helps – ask them about their families and their problems. Listen to them. I swear the world would be a better place.”
Kamocu is shortly heading back to Kenya on six months paid leave to look after her own children, and Karim has been learning to function without her, becoming more independent.
“He’s a changed person” thanks to Kamocu, his mother said.
If she returns to Qatar, Al Rashdi said she will always have a job at her special needs center, if she wants it.
“I truly believe she has a gift to work with special needs children. She’s capable of doing work on a larger scale and benefiting more people. She will always be welcome back with our family. I’ve always believed that it takes a special person to do special things.”