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Wish Granted

But hard work is key to success of Jordan’s Al-Hussein Society

by Sahar Aloul

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What would you do if one day you found yourself in a faraway land married to a prince who could make your every wish come true? For most, it is unlikely that opening a rehabilitation center for the physically challenged would top any list of such wishes.

Yet opening this kind of center is exactly what Princess Majda Raad of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan wished for. However, the success of the Al-Hussein Society for the Rehabilitation of the Physically Challenged (AHS) in Amman owes more to hard work and determination than royal wand waving. And while financial backing for the society has not come from her family’s coffers, the AHS counts among its firm supporters the Princess’ husband and their two sons – all vocal advocates for the rights of the disabled in Jordan.

Founded in 1971, the Al-Hussein Society was one of the first in the country to provide housing, education and physical therapy for the disabled. At that time, in the Jordanian capital of Amman, only one facility, which was on the brink of closing, provided specialized care. Also, lack of awareness meant physically and mentally challenged people with no access to resources were often neglected by their families and society. They were labeled “invalids” and seemed forgotten.

It was a good-will visit to a state-run orphanage by Princess Majda and a group of friends that provided inspiration for what would become the AHS. With little more to offer the orphans than open arms, these women would go on to transform how the nation embraces its disabled.

“I remember our beginning very clearly,” the Princess, who is chairwoman of AHS, said as she sat in the center’s director’s office.

Swedish by birth and a Jordanian princess by marriage, Princess Majda arrived in Amman about 40 years ago as the bride of the late King Hussein’s cousin, Prince Ra’d Bin Zeid.

Jordan was then, as now, a country struggling to stand firm in an unstable region. Jordan is bordered by Israel and Palestine on the West and Syria and Iraq on the North and East – and although the nation is heritage rich, it is resource poor. Unlike its affluent Arab Gulf sisters, Jordan has no oil wealth to support its economy. The only source of wealth in the country has been, and remains, its people.

Princess Majda recalled how she and her friends began an informal group to visit government-run orphanages that were in poor condition and in need of volunteers.

“We did not know then that we had a dream,” Rosemary Bdeir, an AHS founding board member said.

The women went to Ashrafiyeh, one of the poorest areas in the capital. There they found an orphanage that was little more than a dumping ground for unwanted infants. The home had 25 babies and only two nurses to care for them.

“Nurses barely had time to prepare milk bottles for feeding the babies,” Mrs. Bdeir said. “The bottles were supported by rolled-up towels, removed when they were empty and then the nurses would begin changing diapers.

“By the time all the babies were fed and changed, it was time to start all over. There was no time for tender loving care.”

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Tags: Jordan Health Care Disabilities