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Royal pays visit to Bayside

The people who care for disabled adults and children in Bayside gained the attention of royals Tuesday.

Prince Raad bin Zaid of Jordan met with doctors and staff from the YAI/National Institute for People with Disabilities Network to gain lessons in caring for the disabled and to bring these lessons back to the Middle East.

"We are very proud of what you are doing," the prince told the facility's staff at YAI's Premier HealthCare at 211th Street and Northern Boulevard.

The Jordanian prince was in town to celebrate the signing of an international agreement recognizing the rights of the disabled, which took place Monday at the United Nations. Jordan is the first country in the Middle East to sign such an agreement, the prince said.

"In Jordan we believe in serving man," the prince said, "and in my case, it's for the disabled."

Five members of the Higher Council of Affairs of Person with Disabilities, a group representing disability affairs in Jordan, joined the prince for the meeting. For nearly an hour, the prince and council members listened to how the doctors and staff care for its patients at the Bayside facility.

YAI has about 6,000 patients citywide and has seven facilities in the five boroughs, said Stephen Freeman, associate executive director for YAI.

The prince, a jovial man wearing a gray suit and gold-rimmed glasses, often threw up his hands and quietly applauded as he listened the staff. "It's wonderful," he would say.

After the meeting, the prince and the council members toured the facility, meeting doctors and patients along the way.

He met a cheerful group of seniors in the middle of an arts and crafts session and did a run-through of a computer program that helps patients develop their speech skills.

When he walked into a room of facility staff members, the prince offered a humble introduction: "I come from Jordan," he said.

After the meeting and tour, the Prince said he was most amazed by the "keenness" of the facility's staff and the way doctors, nurses and staff worked together. This is not something usually seen in the Middle East, he said.

As a result of the meeting, the two groups decided to work together as Jordan develops more programs for the disabled.

This is not the first time YAI has collaborated with an international organizations. The facility has also helped agencies in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Egypt, Freeman said.

Reach reporter Katy Gagnon by e-mail at kgagnon@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext 174.

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