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Born with a severe disability, one young Jordanian succeeds against all odds

"We are citizens and we too can take part in the development and progress of our country." These were the words of 27-year-old Jordanian, Charles Masharfeh, who suffers from cerebral palsy.

Masharfeh, who was a premature baby, will have to live with his disability for the rest of his life, but this has not stopped him from achieving his ambition to be a productive and active member of society.

Born on September 28, 1981 after six months of pregnancy, Masharfeh had to live in an incubator for two months, merely to survive.

Two years after he was born, and straight after the death of his mother, his father sent him to the former republic of Czechoslovakia for treatment, where he remained until 1989.

"My grandmother took care of me. She taught me how to rely on myself, how to be in control of things and not to let my disability ruin my morale," Masharfeh said, adding that when he was due to go to school he insisted on going to one where he would be treated like any other student.

"My disability was a motive for me to prove to the society that it cannot stand between me and my dreams," the Suweileh resident told The Jordan Times on Wednesday, as he straightened himself in his wheelchair.

The community at that time was not well prepared to deal with people like him, he said, adding that there were times when he was challenged by his condition, especially when he used to see his classmates playing at school. But this did not affect his spirit.

"It was hard for me at the time to adjust to the way people used to look at me. They were sympathising with my condition. But I've always refused to be treated in a special way," he said, noting that in his early years of life, society was not aware of the needs of people with disabilities.

In 2000, in pursuit of a slight hope, Masharfeh had to give up school and leave Jordan for treatment in the United States, where he underwent several operations that resulted in him being able to walk with the assistance of crutches.

This encouraged him to go back to school after he returned from the US in 2002.

"I was over 20 years old, yet I was keen to complete high school and go to university. It was a challenge for me to do something and be a productive member of society," he said.

After passing the Tawjihi (General Secondary School Certificate) with an average of 73 per cent, Masharfeh studied law at the University of Jordan and obtained his BA in three-and-a-half years, graduating in early 2008.

Setting an example of determination and persistence, the young man now drives his own car from home to his workplace at the Higher Council for the Affairs of People with Disabilities (HCAPD) where he receives people with disabilities who apply for jobs at the council.

"I could have worked in my speciality as a lawyer, but I want disabled people who visit the HCAPD to learn from my case. I want them to know that disabilities must not prevent them from being active players in the community," he stressed.

"We can serve the country just like any other normal citizen. We donโ€™t want sympathy from anybody. We just want to be given the chance to achieve our dreams," he said.

Masharfeh pointed out that he plans to run in the next parliamentary elections, underscoring that he is determined to win

Additional Information

Country: Jordan
Website: http://www.jordantimes.com/?news=18265
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Source: THE JORDAN TIMES By Hani Hazaimeh
When: 11/7/2009

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