We sat down with Emma, the project manager of our Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) project in Jordan. She shared about the challenges they are facing during the ongoing pandemic, as well as the encouragements that she has seen during these times.
Emma is leading the CBR project that is directed towards some of the villages surrounding the capital city Amman. The project aims at supporting families that have kids with disabilities. As the name of the project suggests, the purpose of it is to be community based, to start from the grass roots of the community. By starting from within the community the project's aim is to help children with disabilities so that their rights will be upheld in order to live a dignified life.
What then are some of the challenges with the project as Emma sees it?
“Normally we are facing challenges but now, obviously, because of the pandemic there are even more," Emma says.
One of the things that she mentions is the aspect of social distancing and that close contact is prohibited due to the restrictions.
One of the changes that they had to make with the community center, where they usually host groups of people, was to only allow smaller group of people. This has come as a great challenge, since the purpose of the larger groups was for the children to be able to socialize and interact with other children and in that way build a better social capacity.
Just a couple of days before the interview, Emma told us, they had to close down the center since the spread of the pandemic had reached the villages and therefore the government had to put up higher restrictions. Operation Mercy took the necessary precautions and closed down the center in order to avoid causing more of a spread.
However, as Emma shares with us, the lockdowns have consequences for the kids that they are working with.
“In the spring, when we had to close down the center completely, we saw a decline in the wellbeing and development of some of the children," she says.
But Emma and her colleagues are determined to let the families know that they are still there once the restrictions are lifted. Through continuous contact with the parents, they are assuring them of their support through the challenging circumstances.
Emma then goes on to share what the general challenges are, working with children with disabilities, in a context where a disability is something that is stigmatized within the community. Two important ways where Emma sees change happen is first of all through education, to bring theoretical knowledge to people in these areas. The second way, Emma expresses, is something that is harder, and which takes more time and commitment, namely to walk with people and being an example.
“It takes time to see attitudinal changes," says Emma, “but we think we have seen changes and as long as we stay and continue working, then we will see more positive changes ahead.”
We asked Emma to share some of her thoughts on the theme of our campaign: “Hope & Light”, and how she sees those two aspects in her project.
When being asked the question, Emma immediately lights up and mentions the people that the project has got to know and reach out to over the years. She especially remembers a story about a girl that they had helped through the project and that on several occasions had visited the community center with her family. This girl is three years old and has spina bifida and hence no mobility in her legs. Her family are Bedouins, and they live in a tent and move around depending on where they can find pasture for their sheep.
The stimulation that this girl has received from the CBR, through exercises and playing, has meant new life for her. The girl has been telling all her friends and family about the things that she has been doing at the center and when Emma and her colleagues have visited her.
Emma goes on to tell us that the girl's father had an opportunity to work in another part of the country, and as a result of this the whole family had to move with him.
"When she realized that she was not able to visit the center it was like her whole world fell apart," Emma says.
Seeing her daughter’s reaction, to the family moving, the father decided to stay in order for his daughter to be able to continue going to the center. This, Emma says, is an encouraging example of attitudinal changes occurring in the communities and among the people that they are working with.