Mohammad Qassem has never let disability define him.
Every morning, Mohammad puts on his prosthetic leg and goes to school with his peers. After classes he catches up with his friends on the basketball court and football field. And in his free time, Mohammad serves as a youth volunteer near his home in Nahr El Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon.
Due to a congenital disorder, Mohammad was born without his right leg. In Nahr El Bared, the physical and social environment is not supportive of people with disabilities—there are no elevators or wheelchair ramps, and residents have to navigate narrow alleyways and steep steps. But Mohammad is braving all odds to follow his dreams through hard work, commitment and positivity.
I still feel blessed because other people are struggling through even worse circumstances.
“At school, I need to take the stairs to reach my classroom and it’s not always easy, and sometimes it can be painful,” he says. “But I still feel blessed because other people are struggling through even worse circumstances.”
Mohammad is an inspiring example of how people living with disabilities can still be active members of the community. He’s involved with the Community-Based Rehabilitation Association, a local organization which aims to empower youth with special needs. Mohammad is a key member of the team and also takes part in an environmental and health awareness initiative under Anera’s solid waste management program.
The initiative includes interactive awareness sessions for students which focus on sorting, reducing and reusing waste, as well as youth clean-up campaigns which take place in schools, kindergartens and playgrounds across Nahr El Bared. Ten young men and women volunteered with the initiative, four of whom had disabilities similar to Mohammad.
“I’ve been a part of several activities for people with disabilities, but this is the first time I got the chance to do something for the environment,” says Mohammad. “I feel so proud to have taken part, especially since it has had such a positive effect on the whole community, and its overall results are sustainable.”
As part of the project, Anera has partnered with local organizations in the Rashidieh and Nahr El Bared Palestinian refugee camps to deliver 12 environmental youth-led initiatives. The program is implemented by Anera in partnership with UNICEF, and with funding from the Canadian government.