A teenage girl sits on a rehabilitation treatment table with her arms stretched over her head. A physical therapist stands in front of her

Sisters share experiences as refugees with disabilities

Sidra and Marwa are sisters, Syrian refugees, and living with disabilities. Both receive physical therapy care in Lebanon at Mousawat Rehabilitation Center, a Humanity & Inclusion partner.

Sidra, 15, and Marwa, 16, live with their family of seven in a tent in the Faida Camp for Syrian refugees, in Bekaa, Lebanon. They fled from Syria in 2011, at the beginning of the war.

Sidra has cerebral palsy and Marwa has scoliosis. Both disabilities cause pain and make it difficult for the sisters to walk and to move. They receive treatment at the Mousawat Rehabilitation Center, to improve their walking and balance, and strengthen their muscles. Physical therapy helps ease their pain and increase mobility, making their daily lives easier and empowering them to go to school.

During the physical therapy sessions, the girls do exercises to strengthen their arms, legs and core. They use weights, the treadmill and the bicycle. These exercises have a psychological effect, too: to gain physical strength and ability is the first step to boost self-esteem and combat anxiety.

Daily challenges

Marwa’s scoliosis affects her physical and social functioning in a similar way. Marwa has experienced several accidents. For instance, she once lost her balance and broke a knee while playing. The injury limited her movement for months, and caused her distress and anxiety.

“I had a fear that my health situation wouldn’t improve before the school reopened, and I would have to walk with a limp in front of students,” Marwa says.

They both love playing with other children, but they experience bullying because of their disabilities. By improving their mobility, physical therapy sessions have helped the sisters feel more included at school. 

“I see my children happier and more excited about life than ever before, whether during daily life activities, helping out at home, learning, playing or even when leaving the house,” their mother says.

“I hope when we are grown up we will be able find jobs and be able to help our family,” Marwa explains.

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