Determined Youth Engage Persons with Disabilities

Youth empowering persons with disabilities to engage them in their communities

Sarah Abusall, 20, resides with her family in Al-Qasabeh in Jerash governorate north of the capital. She is currently studying for her Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education at Al Albayt University in Mafraq. Her father is a person with a disability, and her sister, who is only three years old, suffers from brain paralysis. Though this situation has been very challenging for Sarah and her family alike, it never brought her down, she says: “My father’s case motivated me to work hard to include persons with disabilities in the community, as he never allowed his disability to be an obstacle to our life or his work. Every day, seeing my father proves to me that if a person has will, they can do anything they want.”

Sarah first heard of the USAID YouthPower program back in the summer of 2018.She decided to join the movement and completed the program’s first transformational learning activity in August of the same year. She learned how to utilize her newly acquired knowledge to tackle issues relevant to gender-based violence and social inclusion of persons with disabilities. Her journey didn’t stop here, as she also attended the youth-led initiatives design workshops and learned how to draft a proposal and transform her passion into a productive initiative.

“To me a person with disabilities does not mean that they are less capable but that they are more special. When I look at the products they made, I feel even more inspired to continue this work.” Sarah Abusall.

Another champion is Najwa Rahaifeh, a senior in high school from Al-Karak. For many years, Najwa has been a member at Princess Basma Center, which is where she first encountered USAID YouthPower in a communal meeting. She learned about the program and its role in engaging youth, and in autumn 2018 she decided to participate in USAID YouthPower’s transformational learning activities, where she learned the importance of designing financial plans through the youth-led initiative workshop.

“I want persons with disabilities to have the simplest right of walking down the streets without people giving them ugly or looks of pity, they are humans just like us.” Najwa Rahaifeh

Sarah’s initiative, “No Disability with Will,” and Najwa’s initiative, “Your Presence Matters,” both aim to engage and empower youth persons with disabilities within their communities. During July 2020, they collaborated with a handicrafts expert trainer to conduct online handicraft accessories-making workshops for youth with disabilities from Jerash and Karak governorates. In addition, and in order to empower the youth with disabilities to generate revenue by selling their handicrafts produced through the workshops and forward, Sarah and Najwa enrolled in digital marketing and e-commerce trainings to learn the skills necessary to help promote and sell the handicrafts and accessories made by their fellow youth with disabilities. “I aspire to not only market for these products to be sold locally but to also extend these goods to the global market through platforms such as Amazon.” Sarah said.

This proved to be a win-win scenario for all of the youth, as many of them learned how to overcome their disabilities and achieve self-reliance, while some worked on sharpening their digital prowess. In August of this year, the initiatives also provided psychosocial counselling sessions for the families of persons with disabilities to motivate them to engage these youth more. Sarah said, “In some cases, the families prefer not to take their children with disabilities to centers or places that offer services; that’s why we want to help the families overcome this mindset and understand why it is important for these youths to be engaged.”

One of the 29 youths (17 females, 12 males) engaged in the social inclusion initiatives is 19-year-old Raghad. Suffering from a challenging financial situation and rejected from public schools due to her hearing disability, Raghad was not able to continue her education. But she shone in the handicrafts trainings, surprising the trainers and the youth leading the initiative with her strikingly creative products. Once she completed the training and discovered her talent and ability to sell her products, Raghad continued on the handicrafts path, where in addition to designing accessories and painting on stones, she also started drawing on clay pots and designing mobile phone covers.

“Through USAID YouthPower’s youth, my daughter discovered her creative talents, which has been a great outlet for her to express her feelings after her fiancé left her. I can say in great confidence that these youth helped improve Raghad’s psychological state,” says Raghad’s mother.

USAID YouthPower deploys innovative and multilayered capacity building approaches to empower youth such as Sarah and Najwa to act as engaged citizens and productive members of society with the agency to advocate for themselves, and to shape services designed to better prepare them to enter higher education, vocational training and the workforce.