Samira was five months old when her mother noticed the girl’s face getting very yellowish. “Her father and I were shocked,” Um Emad recalls. “We realized our daughter was disabled, and different from her brothers and sisters. I felt that a difficult stage of my life had begun.” She and her husband, Hussein Ahmad Shehab, took Samira – their ninth child, born in 1986 – to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) clinic in Husn camp, where they learned that Samira suffered from thalassaemia, a disease of the red blood cells that affects the body’s production of haemoglobin and can have significant complications.
A few months later, the family learned Samira was also deaf and mute. “Every time I looked at Samira, I couldn’t hold back my tears”, Um Emad remembers. She felt like giving up hope for herself and her daughter’s future, but when a neighbour mentioned the Husn Camp Rehabilitation Centre for the Disabled, she thought it was at least worth a visit. That one reluctant visit changed everything.
Samira spent three years at the centre, beginning at age 5. Using the centre’s bus, she’d go every day for training. The centre’s Officer, Adibeh Safout, explains: “Samira was an intelligent student. At the beginning she learned sign language. Then she learned reading, writing and self-dependence. She also trained for six months on a computer program for persons with special needs.” She left at age 8 for the UNRWA Husn Girls’ School, but now, she’s back at the rehabilitation centre. There’s only one difference: She’s not there to be trained, but as a volunteer trainer herself.
Um Emad says simply that her daughter “found love, care and safety at the centre.” Ms. Safout adds that at the centre, “We say that we can change the personality of the disabled child and give him enough confidence to let him stand up and say: Yes, I am disabled, but I am a human being.”