|3 December is International Day of Persons with Disability|
Only around 3% of children with disabilities in Jordan receive any form of education, according to the Higher Council for Affairs of People with Disabilities (HCD)
In an interview with Family Flavours last May, Prince Mir’ed bin Ra’ad, President of HCD, said, “Inclusion is important for all of us – people with disabilities and people without.” Inclusion is not just about ramps, Braille or signing, he adds. "It entails the adoption of an education philosophy for all.”
You may recall The Jordan Times article last April about a 20-year-old woman with a mental disability who spent the past 15 years chained to the staircase in her family’s house, except at bedtime. You may also recall the case of a father who pushed his disabled son off a building and then burned his body. Sadly, there are many such accounts.
Although stories like these are upsetting to many of us who embrace people of all abilities and disabilities, are we doing enough to reach out to families who struggle? Sure, we can be angry with the parents who keep their children locked up or worse, but aren't our own stereotypes and judgement part of the large scale problem of abuse that we see across Jordan?
Lina Masri, national coordinator of Faith and Light Jordan, once admitted to me what so many people think, "I was afraid of them [people with disabilities] and didn’t want to be around them. Their life has no purpose."
Like Lina, I was deeply impacted by a visit to Bait Al Mahaba (Home of Love) in Ruseifeh for children with severe disabilities and are either orphaned or abandoned by their families. For Lina, it was "a test of whether or not I truly love the way I was taught to love all my life.”
Lina began to visit Yousef there until his tragic death at the age of three. Although she was deeply affected by his passing, a nun reminded her, "There are many Yousefs out there, and they’re all in need of our love.” That was the beginning of Lina’s lifetime commitment to spreading love to an often neglected part of society.
Faith and Light is made up of those with disabilities, their families and friends. It’s a community that shares in each other’s hardships and each other’s joys and celebrations. Faith and Light recognizes that people need more than food and shelter; they need love. “Everywhere now, people have to be intelligent, attractive and strong to be loved," Lina once told me. At Faith and Light, people are loved as they are, with all their shortcomings, and they don’t have to change for others to love them.
For the disabled, they have the opportunity to recognise and use their gifts and discover the joy of friendship. Lina explains that friendship does wonders to help people with disabilities. Lina recalls Ibshara, a young man who used to hit people, but after joining Faith and Light and gaining trust in people, he ceased to hit. Raed is an example of someone who was emotionally scarred after hearing people in the streets throw insults at him. When he would hear the word ‘muaq’ (disabled) he would throw a tantrum, but not anymore. Lina says, “He doesn’t think of those bullies anymore. He knows he has people who love him. The word can no longer hurt him.”
To parents, Faith and Light offers support and helps them to better appreciate the inner beauty and gifts of their children. A number of them become a source of strength to other parents who suffer.
Faith and Light is always looking for volunteers to broaden their friendship network. Age doesn’t matter – they have children and adults up to age 70! What they’re mainly looking for is commitment. “Children and adults with disabilities find it extremely difficult to get attached and then find that someone gets married and discontinues the friendship; they feel abandoned,” Lina says. “Anyone can start something, but not everyone can continue the journey that is so important in what we do.”