“The centre is our second home”: Providing psychosocial support for Palestinians with disabilities

Palestinian refugees with disabilities are among the most marginalised and stigmatised groups in Lebanon. They experience poor access to health, education, employment and social services, and limited opportunities to make their voices heard in their communities.

In the south of Lebanon, the Sour Community Disability Project (SCDP), Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP)’s partner, fills the significant gaps in protection and support for Palestinians with disabilities and their families. The SCDP provides specialised services for children, training for caregivers, and promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities in their communities.

Lama*, a mother of two daughters – Farah*, 14, and Roba*, 18 – recently spoke to MAP about her family’s experiences using SCDP’s services:

“I used to work as a schoolteacher but when I got married and had children, I was no longer able to manage, especially as my daughter, Farah, has a physical and mild intellectual disability and I don’t have family close by to help me with the children. Now that my daughters are grown up, I started working again and for a cause that I am passionate about.

I am working in psychosocial support for a local charity, in Al Bass refugee camp, that supports children and their caregivers. As part of my job, I organise awareness sessions to promote better inclusion for people with disabilities as I believe, although there has been progress in the community’s understanding and acceptance, a lot still needs to be done. I would do this work even in my free time and on a volunteer basis as it is so important.

I first brought Farah to the SCDP’s physiotherapy centre when she was 18 months old. She has grown up and progressed a lot physically and psychologically with the support of the SCDP’s team. She is now a confident and happy teenager.

Farah and I feel that this centre is our second home, a place where we get emotional support and the rehabilitation services that Farah needs. I can be myself and I can speak about my concerns and feelings with the team – something that I cannot always do with my family and community.

The team at the SCDP has helped the whole family, not just Farah. My other daughter Roba used to feel ashamed of her sister because of the way society looks at her. She used to ask me why her sister is different and not like the other children. She didn’t accept her at first.

The SCDP worked with Roba and supported her, and as result, she is now very proud of Farah. Roba tells me that she wants to study medicine and when she graduates, she wants to dedicate a day of her week to work for free at SCDP’s centre because they have helped us a lot.

It is not easy to be a parent of a child with a disability in our community. This puts us under lots of stress and psychological pressure. The team at the SCDP knows our needs and what we are going through, and is always there to listen to and support us. They are also flexible and ready to change things to suit us.

The SCDP teaches us how to do exercises with our children at home, which was very useful during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns in Lebanon. The awareness sessions that the team provide are very relevant to us. For example, today we learnt about the issues facing young people with disabilities.

I hope this project will continue to provide services and support for children with disabilities and their families for a long time. I would like to see the SCDP’s services expanded to include health consultations and neurological assessments, to further support families during Lebanon’s very bad economic crisis.”

Please consider supporting this project and MAP’s other work supporting the rights of people with disabilities in Lebanon and Palestine by donating today.


*Names have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.

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