Find out why you should follow your dreams

The UAE’s first Down syndrome Zumba coach on why inclusion in the workplace is easier than you think and expressing herself through dance


At 26 years old, Clari Lehmkuhl is full of energy, confidence and, like many fitness fans, loves a good Zumba session.

And as a newly qualified instructor in the sport, Clari, who has Down syndrome, has a message to share: it doesn’t matter who you are, go after your dreams.

It’s something instilled in her by her mum, Lizette. “I’ve always told her that if you can dream it, do it, and she lives by that motto. She’s had so many opportunities here that she would not have had in South Africa. Being here and working here has enriched her life.”

As Clari prepares to give her first class and inject some rhythm into Abu Dhabi residents on 8th July in collaboration with the disability inclusion organisation, SEDRA Foundation, we sat down with her to talk about achieving her dream job, her iPod playlist and why inclusion in the workplace is so important for people with disabilities.

Q – From working at NYUAD to becoming a Zumba instructor, you’ve never let your disability hold you back in your professional life. What do you say to people that think inclusion in the workplace is difficult?

No – it’s not really!

One of my first jobs was working for an ability centre, and I also worked for NYUAD for four-and-a-half years. I’ve found that Abu Dhabi has been really supportive and have had an easy experience working here.

I believe that people with disabilities should be included in the workplace, and that we have specific roles to fill.

I’ve always had a lot of support from SEDRA Foundation; they gave me the opportunity to work really hard and learn – they gave me a lot of encouragement.

Q – How has working with SEDRA Foundation and training to become a Zumba instructor helped develop your skills?

My mum brought me up to go for something if I wanted to do it. I’ve become much more confident about expressing myself with everyone.

I also believe in myself and I work hard; I believe I can do anything.

Q – So why did you want to become a Zumba instructor?

One reason I was inspired to learn was because I found out there was another qualified Zumba instructor with Down syndrome in the States. If she can do it, then I can do it.

I’ve been doing it for three-and-a-half years now; I just love to dance. It gives me belief in myself, and I love helping people.

Q – What do you want to say to Abu Dhabi Zumba fans ahead of your class – and what will we be dancing to?

I’ve got 12 songs so far, including the ‘Macarena’ and ‘La Bicicleta’ by Shakira.

I wanted to say thank you to everyone for believing in me and encouraging me to do this. I feel like I’m able to be myself doing this. I love working hard, and my friends and family have given me so much support.

I want everyone to be there, experience it and support me in my dream.

Clari’s class will be running on 8th July at Fit and Flex Studio, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Sas Al Nakhl from 10am. A post-class talk and chance to meet Clari will follow at The Lounge in The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort and Spa next door.

Minimum age 16. Registration required. Contact: 02 666 0522,

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