The adaptation workshop: Where dreams of people with disabilities come true

A person in a customized wheelchair.

Since 2016, Mercy Corps has created and supported ‘adaptation workshops’ in refugee camps in Jordan through its Inclusive Education program. The workshops are operated by Syrian volunteers in Azraq and Zaatari camps under the supervision of the technical team at  Mercy Corps Jordan. The team combines sophisticated problem-solving skills, innovative reuse of scrap materials, and leadership to develop low-cost tools, equipment, and smart solutions for children with disabilities.

In these workshops, the volunteers perform basic repairs to equipment like wheelchairs, eyeglasses and hearing aids, assist with the adaptation of classroom equipment such as desks and chairs to accommodate special needs of children with disabilities, and take on special projects such as the design and manufacturing of bicycle trolleys to provide safe transportation and access to services for students with disabilities within the camps.

On a casual day, in the Zaatari adaptation workshop, the volunteers were working on a piece of equipment that enables the wheelchair to be steered through the use of hand pedals instead of standard wheels, for a child who resides in the host community (outside the camp). On that day, Sami was visiting the workshop and once he saw that accessory, it caught his attention, as if he knew the potential it might bring upon.

Sami Al-Farraj, a 17-year-old Syrian adolescent who has been a participant of the Inclusive Education program since 2015. Sami has a physical disability as he lost both his legs during the war. Despite his injury, Sami continued to engage in sports.

Sami approached the Mercy Corps team at the camp and requested if he could use this piece of adaptation for the upcoming 10km competition, and the team enthusiastically agreed. Then, in order to ensure his safety, the team trained him on how to operate it correctly. Additionally, as a precaution, the team assigned an escort to Sami to ensure that his needs were met during the race.

On the day of the event, October 29, 2021, Sami's spirits were at an all-time high and he felt like he was on top of the world. Everyone was watching him with awe and enthusiasm. Many others approached him to find out more about the adaption. “It's very comfortable and I feel like I'm flying while using it,” Sami said regarding his experience with the adaptation . “It's very safe and now I can race faster and more safely with this addition to my wheelchair,” he said.

A person testing the fit on a customized wheelchair.
Sami while he’s training on using the adaptable accessory.

For the 10km race, Sami was the first one to cross the finish line. His passion and confidence in his abilities were the driving force behind this success. Always remember Sami Al Farraj,  1615, the 29th of October 2021, as well as Sami's success.

An excited person in a customized wheelchair after winning a race.
Sami is overjoyed after he won the 10km race.

Mercy Corps has been leading inclusive education programming for children with disabilities since 2008. Our holistic approach provides Jordanian and Syrian children with disabilities with personalized support, educators with training and capacity building to identify children with disabilities and assist them with appropriate tools. It also offers Jordanian schools with new systems to ensure access to equitable learning opportunities and works with communities to raise awareness around disability law and rights, specifically the right to education.

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