Abdul* is a six-year-old boy who had to grow up without fully understanding much about the world around him. He is always around his mother, whom he accompanies everywhere she goes. Making little to no sense of what is communicated to him due to a hearing imparity, Abdul has become a shy boy who is either co-dependent on his parents or prefers to stay home for days. When trying to make friends, he is bullied and the other children refuse playing around him. Along with his suffering, his life has been nothing more than going from one displacement camp to another.
“We were displaced from the village of Kafr Nabudah three years ago, after suffering from continuous heavy shelling”, Abdul’s mother recalls. “I feared for my children that we may die”. The family then decided to settle in a camp in another village. They were hoping to start over and have a better life for their children, but the suffering began again. Living in a small tent was far from what one may call home. “There is nothing to do here; we just live in this tent, a prefabricated room with a rented roof; it doesn’t protect us from the cold winter or the hot summer," she continues. The only source of income was the father’s wage, but it was barely enough for them to provide for their children. Food and fulfilling basic needs became critical. Their life was heading towards extreme poverty. On top of that, there was Abdul’s disability which prevented him from growing up like all the other children of his age.
His mother learned about his disability when Abdul was only two years old after noticing that her son was not communicating properly with people around him. Securing a hearing aid for him while travelling from one displacement camp to another was out of their reach.
“Abdul was born with a moderate hearing disability that we discovered when he was two years old after I noticed his poor communication and response”, recalls the mother. “His hearing began to deteriorate gradually, affecting his speech capacity and having difficulty pronouncing some words and letters.”
Little by little, his hearing impairment led to the deterioration of his psychological condition. Abdul grew up as a partially deaf child with no specialised support to help him get acquainted with people around him. That made him feel isolated and lost. He grew up facing bullying and harassment from children of his age. Nicknamed “The Deaf”, children would often pick on him for no reason, just because he could not react or defend himself. All of this caused Abdul to feel a lot of sadness, shame, and isolation, making him afraid to leave the tent for days.
School seemed to be a closed path. His parents feared that at one point, Abdul would become an adult that is not ready to step into the world and manage his life by himself. “I could barely imagine him growing up and going out into the world”, says the mother. “I just couldn’t see him colliding with the reality and the cruelty of life.”
When she heard from one neighbour who attended the Parenting Skills Program held by World Vision, the mother learned about the Bakri Ahla Center, established by the organisation through its local implementing partner, and funded by the European Union Humanitarian Aid agency. The community centre provides a safe space for women and children and offers social and protection services to children who need help.
“I heard from one of the neighbours who attended several sessions in the Parenting Skills Program that there is a community centre for children, and they provide support for children like Abdul”, recalls the mother. “You can’t imagine the joy I felt when I heard that my son would get help too”.
The World Vision team and its implementing partner, Syria Relief Development, started assessing the child's needs and took the appropriate measures to begin working on the case and developed a proper plan.
The first thing that was noticed was that the child was smaller in size and weight than most of the children of his age. Immediately, the mother was referred to the nearest health centre, where Abdul received a complete medical examination. The results were not too optimistic: it was found that the child suffered from a growing deficit and had a slow growth at an average rate, and his health condition would continue to deteriorate further. Abdul needed to get a special diet, like tonics and vitamins, to help him gain weight and maintain health. This underlying condition would have gone unnoticed if the child did not reach the centre and have a complete medical analysis of his health condition.
The real magic was only about to happen when Abdul was going to receive the hearing device that he needed to start a new life.
The child was accompanied to the Hearing Aid Centre, where he received a complete medical set and a complete audiogram for his ear. The doctors measured Abdul’s ear size and chose a suitable hearing device for his age. Then, they had to set the hearing device to be adjusted to his hearing needs. “The moment I saw my child’s reaction when having the hearing device installed and knowing that he could hear the sounds properly for the first time, I was in awe”, recalled the mother. “I could see the look on his face, how he would suddenly change his face from fear to joy, how he would sometimes laugh and sometimes hold tight to me because he never felt those feelings before.”
To have an even more significant impact on the child’s wellbeing, Abdul has been included in the child-friendly spaces and participated in several activities that have helped him develop his social and interpersonal skills and start making steps towards communicating with other children more. Slowly, Abdul began making new friends, playing and feeling part of the group.
The case management team conducted follow-up visits at home and on the field, and several follow-ups were conducted by phone to learn if Abdul was doing well and adjusting to his new life. Thanks to his new hearing device, Abdul now has the chance to live a normal life, make friends, and start going to school and learning like all the other children. “I feel like I am the one who got the hearing aid, and my life came back to me”, said the mother.
The father of the child also promised that he will register his child in school and enrol him in the first grade. Finally, his son will be able to communicate effectively without fear or shame about his condition. The parents trust that new horizons will open in front of him, which the family dreamed of for a long time, and all of these dreams came true after the child attended the Bakri Ahla Center.
* Names are changed to protect identity.