Ten years ago, I knew that my both sons Aboud and Amr are having a developmental disability, they both have a Global Developmental Delay, which means they have delay in speech, learning, cognition and not at the same level of skills with their peers.

I never expected this to happen to me or my sons, and what was beyond my expectations, is leaving our life in Gaza strip in Palestine, and, moving to Amman in Jordan seeking the specialized programs that my sons need.

For a while, I thought it was temporary and that after few months things will be back normal again, but, things were being confirmed, my sons have a lifelong disability! Here, I felt life just came to an end! And we will be living in isolation ever after

In Amman, my sons’ school told me about a parents support group, which after joining and meeting other parents like me, I felt I am not alone, it was one of the best things happened to me and my whole family.

Once in 2012, while I was going through my sons’ photos… a photo that came up for me with them, I looked sad. It made me reflect and asked myself two questions:

1. Are these the memories I want to leave for my children when they grow up? Whenever they get back to their childhood photos, they see their mom unhappy and looking sad always? Sure the answer was No!

2. What is the main thing that is making me unhappy regardless of the status of my sons? The answer that I found is “Nothing”… Nothing is forcing me to be unhappy or to live isolated… It was a decision that I made!

I started to think, what can I do about it? Maybe it happened to me for a reason, maybe I need to take an action about it!

In 2013, while I was watching TV with my sons, mainly cartoons, I started noticing that there are no characters that look like my sons, at least in the region, then I thought: why don’t we have a cartoon that features children with disability in a positive way and fun way like my sons are living? Then, I decided to produce it … It was not an easy experience and took me few years to make it happen. I teamed up with my partner Khalid, who’s specialized in filming and production, we co-created a show called: Team Hero Cartoon that is available in Arabic and English. The Arabic version is being broadcasted on mbc3, one of regional TV stations for Arab children.

Uncle Ramiz explains to children about diversity and acceptance. Team Hero Cartoon.

Few years later, I started to think, I need to upgrade the level of the awareness, an approach parents like me who are key to improve the lives of children with disability. In 2017, I joined forces with my husband and launched an online resource in Arabic that empowers parents like us with guidance and information and facilitates their access to the services needed, so their children with developmental disability, can have a meaningful and productive life when they grow up.

With habaybna team, all parents of children with intellectual disabilities. Amman, 2018.

When we came to naming the platform, I wanted to have an inclusive name, so I asked myself: what is the common thing that we, as parents, have towards our children regardless of their abilities or disabilities? the answer was: Love! So we called it “Habaybna.net”, which in Arabic means, our loved ones, as we believe children with all abilities are our loved ones. We are so happy that we are reaching out for parents like us across the borders, trying to make them feel they are not alone and they with their children really matter.

I have learnt a lot throughout the last 10 years, but here are the main lessons that I always remind myself with:

  1. Change is a matter of choice, even if you have a destiny, you can change your reality… It’s true I can’t change the fact that my sons are having a disability, but I can always improve their lives.
  2. Changing the world starts by changing ourselves, if I am not able to change myself and my own life, how do I expect to change others?
  3. Learning helps you do wonders! Life proved to me that if I want to learn, no one can stop me, and if I don’t want to, no one can help me… Going through different experiences in life, especially the hard ones, is sometimes to learn something new, gain a new skill or practice a skill that we already have but we need to excel as it will be fundamental for our next phase in life.
  4. Gratitude grows the small blessings and they become the most beautiful part in our lives. And, it’s not enough to be grateful, but how do I show my gratitude? Showing love, respect, compassion or appreciation. I always ask myself, how can I show my gratitude, how can I transform my gratitude into action?
  5. If I can’t pay a favor back, I can pass it on, and I can start numerous ripples and touching more lives! Some acts of kindness from people who helped me and didn’t want anything in return left me speechless, which inspires me to pass it on.
  6. Keep the balance, life to me became a marathon rather than a race, I do what I can with whatever I have at my own speed, sometimes I get faster, sometimes slower, maybe I need to rest or take a break on my way, the most important thing is not to stop or burn out but keep progressing.
  7. Happiness is not a result of our status, actions or what happens to us, happiness is a choice that we make and a decision that we take no matter what we are going through! I choose to be happy as much as possible by focusing on the positive side, stay around positive people and thankfully count the blessings that I have even the smallest ones.