Challenging the stigma surrounding disability

Image: BBC News

On Wednesday 4thJuly, International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt made history in the House of Commons, by being the first MP to use sign language when addressing Parliament.

She was sharing about the Global Disability Summit which will be held in London later in July. She opened by saying, 



“For too long in the world’s poorest countries, disabled people have not been able to reach their full potential, because of stigma or not enough practical support.”

WDR has the privilege of working with 2 development partners who focus on empowering those living with a disability. In Lebanon, Father Andeweg Institute for the Deaf give children an education that they would otherwise be denied. In recent years, FAID’s work has grown to include working with Syrian refugees who have been forced to flee from their homes. 


FAID work with children like Lougain (pictured above), a 6-year-old deaf Syrian refugee who was turned away by several deaf schools due to her behaviour.

When she came to FAID at the beginning of last year, she had virtually no way of communicating with others and so she became frustrated, angry and quite aggressive. 

The staff at FAID explained the change they saw in her, “We don’t know what she has experienced in Syria but what we do know is that one year later she has started to build her communication skills, settled down well in the school, is starting to build a better relationship with her mother and is very happy with her schoolmates.” 

FAID is a safe and welcoming place, where children like Lougain are valued, treated as people, not problems, and encouraged so that they can reach their full potential. 

Similarly, in East Jerusalem the YMCA walk alongside local people whose lives and abilities have been changed by conflict and violence.  EJ YMCA offers skills training which leads to greater employment opportunities and income generation as well as improving self-confidence and self-esteem. They also offer psychosocial, educational or career-based counselling. In 2017 they provided 9,137 counselling sessions. EJ YMCA work with children and adults, seeking to improve their quality of life through the opportunities available to them. 

The sensory garden at FAID

The sensory garden at FAID

M.G. a 17-year-old girl from the district of Jenin, who lives with hemiplegia (paralysis on one side of the body). She was confined to her home, not being able to leave unless someone carried her as she couldn’t use the entrance. The YMCA adapted the house entrance thus enabling her to move freely without depending on others. She improved her self-esteem and self-confidence and felt independent. She met with new people, made friends and started making social visits within the village and participating in local celebrations and events. M.G. said: “I feel I was reborn... I am no longer isolated... I feel I am a human being and I have value.” 

Penny Mordaunt explained that the aim of the conference is to “advance disability inclusion” around the world. At the heart of WDR is our desire to see every person’s God-given potential fulfilled and so we will continue to support partners like FAID and EJ YMCA as they fight to make inclusion and equality a reality in their communities- will you join us?

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You can read more about the Global Disability Summit here.

[Click here to watch Nader, the director of EJ YMCA, explain a bit more about how they work and the challenging context they’re working in.]