Mohammad, 50, lost his leg in a landmine explosion nearly 20 years ago. This Syrian refugee now lives in Lebanon, where he has been given a new prosthesis by Handicap International. Mohammad helps run group sessions as part of the organization’s psychosocial support initiatives for Syrian refugees.
"Come in, come in, I’ve been waiting for you,” Mohammad exclaims when Maram and Abeer, Handicap International psychosocial support specialists, arrive outside his home. Welcoming the two women with a smile, he ushers them into his living room and offers them coffee. Mohammad is one of a kind and, as Handicap International has discovered, uniquely equipped to provide support for the growing population of Syrian refugees with disabilities in Lebanon.
Looking at him, it’s hard to imagine what he has been through. Married to a Lebanese woman, Mohammad has spent most of his life between Lebanon and Syria. In the late 1990s, Mohammad stepped on a landmine in Beirut and had to have his leg amputated. Years later, in 2011, when the current conflict broke out in Syria, he decided to move to Lebanon permanently with his family. He is still very worried about the war that has been tearing his country apart for more than five years.
“A few months ago, Mohammad visited the Handicap International center in Baalbeck to ask if we could fit him with a new prosthesis because the one he had, which was made in Syria, was in a bad state,” explains Maram.
Abeer adds, “my physical therapist colleagues fitted him with a new prosthesis, and taught him, through a few sessions, how to use it properly. Impressed by his past and his approach to life, they told us about him. We knew we had to meet him."
Maram and Abeer got in touch with Mohammad and were soon sitting in his living room, chatting over a cup of coffee. Although Mohammad was doing well and didn’t need psychosocial support, Maram and Abeer realized how his experience could be useful to other refugees. So they asked him to help them run group sessions for Syrian refugees who had recently undergone amputations.
Mohammad immediately accepted and, a few weeks later, he took part in the first group session. “Mohammad’s life holds some valuable lessons for refugees,” explains Maram. “He’s optimistic, and he helps people move forward. When they hear his story, they understand how important it is not to give up.”
Handicap International has been running psychosocial support sessions in Lebanon for several years alongside its physical therapy and occupational therapy sessions. These group, and one-on-one sessions help refugees recover psychologically. Four Handicap International teams, each consisting of a psychologist and a psychosocial worker, currently work in Lebanon, in the region of Tripoli and in the Beqaa Valley. Since the start of 2016, more than 400 people have benefited from Handicap International’s psychosocial support activities in Lebanon.