by Jihan Twemeh Nazzal
It started at the very early moments of her birth. Lack of oxygen during birth caused the life of Raneem* to be a different one, a life with a permanent disability: Paralysis.
Raneem spent her early childhood, within the four walls of her house. Isolation, fear of the future, hopelessness and loneliness were her companions. For 12 continuous years, Raneem and her family faced a constant struggle to obtain what the majority of the families in her community consider to be an ordinary life.
Going to school, accessing education, playing with peers, enjoying her childhood–the very simple things most children take for granted were the unattainable dream of Raneem. For so long, her parents held on to the belief that disability is a big impediment, and from this belief, Raneem was not given the chance to be part of the community.
When she became nine years old and entered school, the mockery of her peers at school emphasized this belief and only led Raneem to be a shut-in, a hidden and isolated young girl whose place is nowhere but her house.
Reintegrating Raneem into community was the most significant goal which the YMCA Rehabilitation Program planned to achieve. Working with her family, raising awareness of those surrounding her, and enhancing Raneem’s acceptance at school were the first steps that helped Raneem gain motivation, persistence, and drive to change her life and compensate for the years of childhood wasted in isolation.
With the support of MCC, the entrance of Raneem’s house was adapted thereby enabling her to move freely in and out of her home. The barriers that used to shut Raneem in are now removed so that she can get on with living.
Today, Raneem has begun to feel better about herself. She came to know herself as respected, accepted and loved. Today, she is healed from the feeling of being unworthy and undesirable. Out of her new positive feelings, great things may flourish. That’s what she and her parents have realized.
Raneem said: “Today, I have friends at school, and I can learn and I know how to write and read.”
And her father said: “In the past, we didn’t know what to do with Raneem, but today she is living a normal life like others, she is learning and continuing her life. You are the only organization that was able to change our life and the life of my daughter and you let us feel capable of dealing with the problem.”
Today, Raneem who used to be shut-in is shut-out to a new and better life to live.
* Real name changed for privacy.
Jihan Twemeh Nazzal is Grants Administrator for the East Jerusalem YMCA Rehabilitation Program, an MCC partner organization in Beit Sahour.