Sixteen-year-old aviation fanatic Jai Nagra, who has a rare debilitating health condition which has made him blind and partially deaf, has received his Christmas wish early.
For years Jai has begged his mum, Pam Nagra, who works at World Duty Free at Birmingham Airport (BHX), to let him experience what it’s like to work at BHX.
This month Jai, who lives with his mum in Leamington Spa, finally got his chance. He donned a branded BHX gilet and a temporary airside pass and reported for his day of work experience.
Jai was diagnosed eight years ago with Alström Syndrome, a rare genetic condition leading to multiple health challenges including loss of sight and hearing. He was later diagnosed also with leukaemia, making him the only child in Europe known to have both of these conditions.
Thanks to a combination of medical treatment and his own personal grit, Jai fought off leukaemia four years ago. However, he continues to live with the challenges of Alstrom Syndrome on a daily basis.
Inspired by her son’s relentlessly positive attitude, Pam, who has worked at BHX for 20 years, asked BHX colleagues if Jai might be able to do a day’s work. The answer was an immediate yes.
Pam said: “Jai is my inspiration. On days where I need motivation, when I see him getting up out of bed and trying his best despite his huge challenges, I think: ‘If he can do it, I can do it.’
“Jai has always had a dream of working at BHX, just like me. His day of work experience was just incredible. He hasn’t stopped smiling since he got home.”
Jai said: “My best bit of the day was meeting the Emirates pilot and co-pilot and sitting in their seat. When I'm older, I’d love to fly the plane and go to Dubai.”
Jai’s jam-packed day included a tour of the West Midlands Police unit at BHX, checking in with his own custom-made boarding pass, handing out liquid bags to passengers in pre-flight security and visiting World Duty Free. He also had tour of an Emirates A380, including the cockpit and taking a seat in the captain’s chair.
Pam arranged Jai’s day of work experience at BHX with help from Alström Syndrome UK (ASUK), an organisation which raises awareness about this condition and supports people affected by it.
Marie McGee, Transition Care Co-ordinator at ASUK and Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Jai gained valuable insight into how an airport works and the vast array of roles and specialisms involved in making it all run smoothly.”
Antoinette Farrell-Jones, people Director for BHX, said: “It was a huge pleasure to have Jai visit us. We’re excited to see where Jai’s career plans take him over the next few years, and we look forward to supporting his work experience in the future, including hopefully having him back next year to visit Air Traffic Control and our Fire Station too.”