Shireen is a 38-year old woman with physical disability and seizures from Hussan village located in zone C in the western rural areas of the Bethlehem district, which is underprivileged, lacks essential services and is surrounded by Israeli settlements.
By the age of 11, Shireen’s life was utterly catastrophic and had dropped out of school due to lack of acceptance, which was later translated into neglect, isolation and exclusion. She was significantly withdrawn and was often bullied by her school peers who refused to play with her because of her condition. This had created a sense of social and emotional instability making her generally insecure.
Shireen was one of the first persons reached by the CBR worker in Hussan village and referred to the prevocational training center that BASR established therein in cooperation with the village council.
When she first came to the center, Shireen was very shy, nervous and slightly oversensitive. It was very hard for her to socialize with her peers or interact with the specialists at the center. She declined the psychosocial intervention sessions offered by BASR and had an extremely hard time coping with group activities.
From the very beginning, the CBR team realized the amount of distress and frustration Shireen was going through and focused on empowering her to work on her strengths. The team was persistent convincing her to take the psychosocial support sessions; and the moment she began to participate, her whole life started to change. She became more open and systematically started taking a leading role in the group activities conducted at the center. With the support, she received from the CBR staff; Shireen was willing to go even further and started participating in activities outside the center. In addition to the vocational training Shireen received at the center, she participated in other trainings including first aid training, sewing, social empowerment and leadership training. This led her to become the spokesperson of the center, as she is now more able to express her feelings and share her experiences and thoughts with the media. She now represents the center in different exhibits and inclusive trainings. Shireen is also about to start her own micro-project, as the CBR program offered her the opportunity to obtain the financial support needed to grant her more independence.
In a public speech Shireen made in front of an audience of 500 people in a public school about her experience in an event organized on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, She said: “I was submerged by insecurities and overwhelmed with fear, all due to a society that had always stigmatized me and made me feel very weak and incapable. I was always bullied and ridiculed by my peers at school and was completely ignored, as if I was wearing some sort of ‘invisibility hat’. However, I always refused pity. When Taghreed (the CBR worker) first visited me, I was frightened and perplexed; I was unable to comprehend the nature of that visit. However, from the moment we first spoke, I knew she was here to help me and she introduced me to Hussan center. My life has completely changed and I am more positive that further change is yet to come. My message to society is this: Have faith in us; we are capable of achievements too. My message to persons with disabilities is: Have faith in yourselves; do not let anything put you down.”