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The women in Princess Majda’s group, most of them “transplants” – as Mrs. Bdeir likes to call them – that is, born in another country and living in Jordan as a result of marriage or otherwise, would hold the babies and gently rock them while they fed from the bottles.

“We would also put the toddlers in prams and take them out for a walk,” Princess Majda said. “What a sight that was! A bunch of foreign women pushing dozens of babies in strollers through the streets of Amman.”

Being mothers themselves, the women quickly got to know each baby and discovered many of their problems: Fevers and colds were the least of them.

“We also discovered something in ourselves that was hard to live with,” Tennessee-born Mrs. Bdeir admitted.

“The first babies we picked up were the pretty ones, the healthy ones. The babies with birth defects were the last to get TLC.”

But this was all about to change as the Cheshire Home – a British-run physical rehabilitation center and boarding home for the disabled – lost its two physical therapists and was at risk of closing down because of lack of funding. This home was the only one of its kind in Jordan that helped physically handicapped individuals by offering them a place to live, learn and receive treatment.

The situation turned critical when three teenage boarders at the Cheshire Home were threatened with homelessness. The teenagers’ families refused to take them back and the health authorities had no place that would give them shelter.

“That was when we decided to help,” the Princess, who is herself a mother of five, said. “With approval from the appropriate government body, we merged the orphanage and the physical disability center into one – giving these three teenage girls a room to live in the orphanage at Ashrafiyeh.”

Members of the group then officially registered themselves as the Al-Hussein Society for Child Welfare. Their mandate was, and remains, not to merely shelter the disabled but to make each individual a productive member of the community with responsibilities and rights. They also promote and assist in the inclusion of all such children into mainstream schools and society. Additionally, AHS strives to empower families with disabled children with the will to promote their rights of acceptance, their value as individuals and their rightful role in society.

“When we got a permit to open a 15-bed boarding home with a housemother and a physical therapist, that was when the dream began to have shape,” Mrs. Bdeir said.

“Before we even opened the doors, we had 45 children on our waiting list. It was a great leap of faith to open the home as we did not have money or backing.”

In order to support operating costs, the volunteers held a bazaar as the society’s first fund-raising activity. Over time, this would become their main source of revenue.

“We asked all our friends to make crafts and food and donate them. Then, we asked all the same friends to come back and buy them,” Mrs. Bdeir added.

“We begged our husbands, fathers-in-law and anyone else who would listen to give us money. With our hearts in our mouths, our doors opened 31 years ago.”

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Tags: Jordan Health Care Disabilities