Overcoming Adversity: Heba’s Journey to Inclusion
“Be ambitious and strong, focus on your abilities and do not be weak. Face all problem with optimism and positivity!” At just 19 years old, Heba Muhammed Ali stared down adversity and took the first step to taking control of her own life.
Born a Palestine refugee in the Qabr Essit Palestine refugee camp in Syria, Heba learned to navigate stumbling blocks at an early age. Throughout childhood, she lived in a single room with her parents and siblings in her grandfather’s house. Then, in eighth grade, she was forced to leave school as her family was struggling financially. This contributed to a deep pessimism and depression she felt, not lastly on account of a physical disability she has had since birth for which she felt she was stigmatized by society.
“I was living in a depressed and pessimistic situation, wishing for death, not wanting this life.”
Determined to make a change, Heba approached UNRWA asking for help and UNRWA social workers supported Heba over a period of six months. During this time, Heba was given psychological support sessions to help build her self-esteem and confidence, and to encourage her integration into society in order to improve her mental health.
She was also advised on which vocational course would be suitable for her skills set and one that was commensurate with labour market needs. UNRWA recommended a course to become a hairdresser and beautician implemented by the Agency’s Department of Relief and Social Services at the Community Development Center in Al-Husseiniyyeh, and Heba accepted.
“I chose this profession because I love it. It is a service needed by women in our society and it allows me to have a job.”
Upon completion of the course, Heba received a kit with all the basics she would need to start a small business: a blow dryer, a hair-straightening iron, cotton balls, hair clips, eyeshadow, eye lashes an assortment of combs and brushes. “The training bag I received allowed me to start my own business. I opened a small salon in a room of the family home.” Today, this small room has flourished into a successful small business that allows her to meet her needs with her own income.
As she says, the assistance extended by UNRWA enabled her to turn her life around: “I was able to face my problems and [limitations resulting from] my disability and focus my energy to improve my circumstances.”
The support provided to Heba is in line with the Agency’s policy of ensuring the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all its activities, through the systematic identification of persons with disabilities, along with their specific and mainstream needs, in order to adapt services and ensure equal participation.
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