(3.12.2016) – In a way, life in Za’atari refugee camp is not so different from life at home for Ahmed Bahar*, 22. Four years ago he fled his hometown Da’ara and became a refugee in Jordan. But in both places he feels people look down on him because of his disability.
Bahar has phocomelia, a congenital deformation of the limbs which hinders his mobility and limits the use of his hands. To many people in his situation, a physical disability means they cannot find employment. Children with disabilities are kept at home. They often do not attend school and are hidden from neighbors.
Welcome and affirmation
People living with disabilities are especially vulnerable in situations of displacement. They lack the usual support systems, and often find themselves in unknown environments that are difficult to access. When resources are scarce, they are considered a burden on their families, who are struggling to make ends meet. As a grown son, Bahar would be expected to earn money and contribute to the family income.
ACT member The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Jordan has been looking to better integrate children and youth with specific challenges, and to pull them out of isolation. Bahar was invited to join workshops in the LWF Peace Oasis, a psychosocial center for young people in Za’atari. Through art, music and sports they learn to deal with everyday trauma and stress, but they also acquire formative skills.
In this environment, Bahar has overcome many of his physical challenges, such as writing and typing. He attended various trainings, including LWF Jordan’s office job training. “I liked LWF because everyone was so welcoming and affirming. Every time I stepped into the classroom, I felt supported by the people there,” he says.
Despite the limited use of his hands, Bahar was able to complete the office course and now plans to use his skills to secure a job. “The office course allowed me to gain experience with computers and now I can apply for a job with international organizations in the camp. It is very difficult to get a job here without knowing how to work with computers,” he says.
Overcoming discrimination continues to be a challenge but working and learning with other young people has given the young man the confidence to approach his situation differently. He has been working and learning at the camp since he arrived and is currently serving with an organization where he teaches theater and drama to children with disabilities. Bahar has a passion for working with these children, he says. To the children, his energetic personality and contagious positivity are a motivation in themselves.
“When people get to know me they change their mind about how they see me,” he is convinced. LWF staff working with him fully support that statement. “It is a privilege to have contributed to Bahar’s confidence and ability to provide for himself, and to overcome any future challenge he might face,” LWF program support officer in Jordan, Naomi Boase, says. “His hope reminds us of how much we can learn from people like him, who possess more courage than we could ever imagine.”
Support to people living with disabilities is part of the education and protection work of LWF World Service in many countries, such as Uganda, Kenya, Chad, Mauritania, Laos, Jordan and north Iraq. LWF assists through livelihood support, education opportunities, special living arrangements and material help, such as wheelchairs. It also raises awareness for special needs and integration of people with disabilities.
A contribution by LWF communications.
*Name changed to protect his identity
When people get to know me they change their mind about how they see me.
— Ahmed Bahar, Syrian refugee with phocomelia