“When Abdel Rahman was born, he seemed healthy,” says his father Badi. “But as he grew older, we realized he wasn’t learning how to walk. We lived in a small village in Syria and there were no specialists who could tell us how to help him. When he was nine, we brought him to a larger town where he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy and able to get physical therapy. However, two years later, the conflict broke out and we had to stop the sessions.”
By the end of 2015, conditions in Syria deteriorated to the point where Abdel Rahman and his family were forced to flee to the Azraq refugee camp in Jordan. Handicap International, which has been working with people with disabilities in the camp since it opened in 2014, began providing Abdel Rahman with physical therapy soon after he arrived.
Mo’men, Abdel Rahman’s physical therapist, starts each session with some strengthening exercises to stimulate the boy’s muscular system and joints. “Abdel Rahman had to stop his physical therapy sessions in Syria, so he needs to start from scratch,” says Mo’men. “But I know he can do it. He’s really eager and he’s going to make progress soon, I’m sure of it.”
During each session, Abdel Rahman’s family watches what the physical therapist is doing very carefully. Abdel Rahman's father, Badi, wants to learn the exercises that will help improve his son’s life. When he arrived in Jordan with his four children, wife and mother, he decided to do everything he could to make his family’s life easier in the camp. Mo’men shows Badi how to relieve his son’s discomfort and help him to move around.
As well as physical therapy sessions, Handicap International’s team gave Abdel Rahman a wheelchair so he can go outside and explore the camp. “Yesterday, for the first time, he visited a center where they organize activities for children,” says Wafaa, his mother. He played video games with boys the same age as him. He couldn’t have done that without a wheelchair.”
Despite the challenges he faces, Abdel Rahman is just like any other teenager. He enjoys spending time with his friends and asks his parents when he’s going to get the mobile phone they promised him when they were still living in Syria.
After a few more exercises, Mo’men asks Abdel Rahman if he’d like to practice using his wheelchair. He agrees and excitedly moves back and forth in the chair, proud of the progress he’s made since his first session. “One day I’m going to care for people too,” says Abdel Rahman, who now wants to a pursue a career in health when he grows up.