I just spent two weeks shadowing Handicap International's teams in Jordan and Lebanon. On my last day, I ventured to a snow-locked Bekaa Valley, where I met one of the world's bravest three-year-olds.
Three days after a snow storm cut off access to Lebanon's Bekaa’s Valley, I finally made it across the mountain roads to restock our rehabilitation teams caring for refugees from Syria who have fled a brutal civil war in their homeland. Snow or not, children and adults injured by sniper attacks and bombings need our help—and lifesaving winter supplies as they brave frigid temperatures.
Carrying blankets and hot water bottles, the team and I crossed an icy, makeshift bridge over a stream to reach the unfinished housing development where three-year-old Hadi* and his family were taking shelter. Partially paralyzed by shrapnel lodged in his spine, Hadi curled on the floor by the family’s small heater. Facing his visitors, his dark eyes focused not on us, but somewhere beyond. His face was still and silent. He had seen and experienced more than we would ever know.
Mohamad, Handicap International’s physical therapist, took Hadi in his arms and began massaging his limp legs. Rana, our social worker, called to Hadi and touched his face, trying to bring him into the moment. Slowly Hadi began wiggling his toes. Eventually, a shy smile broke over his face and his eyes met Mohamad’s.
A tiny walker was retrieved and placed before him. He grasped at it, and with everyone’s encouragement, he pulled himself upright. He pushed it forward, and one little foot stepped ahead, and then the other. The act seemed impossible only five minutes earlier.
After a few steps, Hadi collapsed. But, without making a sound, he pulled himself back up and began again. He continued this way, eventually making five full laps around the room. We all watched in amazement. So much determination from a small, broken boy.
My cell phone rang suddenly. Time to leave. More snow would force the roads to close again. I said goodbye to the family and shook hands with Mohamad and Rana—they had five more cases to see that afternoon.
I was to fly home soon, but our field staff and the refugees will remain in Bekaa for another long winter.
We’ve been able to help so many innocent victims—it's clear that that is possible because of the donors who believe in, and support our mission. However, there are still many more children like Hadi who are waiting for rehab so they can walk and for wheelchairs and walkers and prosthetic limbs so they can get up off the floor and be kids again.