“It was my dream to be able to stand up on my own feet,” she said. “And now, my dream has come true thanks to Operation Mercy. Now, I have hope…I can face life and society, and I don’t think about committing suicide anymore.”
When Sara*, Rania* and Shama*, together with their families, were first introduced to the peer group programme, they found the idea of meeting together strange. The three families were not used to leaving their houses with their daughters due to their physical disabilities, a disapproving society and the shame that was associated with being disabled. Sara was unable to sit down by herself, stand up or walk; to move, she would scoot on her bottom. Rania has cerebral palsy and requires assistance to walk, while Shama has an undiagnosed disability that affects her mobility.
This peer group programme was introduced in 2019 as part of a community-building form of therapy at the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp the three teenage girls call home. Besides the programme team and participants, the mothers or caregivers were included as well. The families were taught how to do the necessary exercises with their children and participated in the group activities.
After a few months, the girls’ and their families grew closer and became very good friends. They would share freely with each other their struggles and experiences each week and visited each other outside of group sessions. They also began to take the girls out in public–seeing how the programme team treated their girls with care and respect gave them the encouragement they needed.
This programme has given the three families much-needed friendship and emotional support–a friendship that would not have been gained otherwise. It has also brought about physical improvements.
Sara shared part of her story with the group: “When I was younger, the doctors told my parents they needed to constantly do exercises for me, which they did. But after a short while, they were unable to. They told me to do it myself, but I had no strength.” She grew hopeless and depressed because of what people said about her: “I prayed to Almighty God to help me in my misery, and He answered my prayers by letting me meet some compassionate people from Operation Mercy. They have helped me so much. I believe it was God’s plan. With their help, I got better and began to take small steps. I am so thankful.”
Sara has since undergone two successful surgeries in the past year, which were done in partnership with another organisation. The procedures enabled her to stand up and walk a few steps without any assistive device.