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Ghada Harami, working on disabilities
submitted by This Week In Palestine

Disabilities Are to Be Overcome … All the Way till Perfection

“When the telephone rang, I was in the middle of a busy workload in my office at Diakonia/NAD,” recounts Irene Siniora. “The call was from This Week in Palestine, and the news, well, an upcoming issue will be about disability and special needs in Palestine. Not only that, but Ghada Harami, whom I know very well and admire so much, will be the Personality of the Month - a way of honouring her for her work with people with special needs. Wow! What is more befitting,” Irene continued, “than featuring Ghada in a magazine dedicated to the work she has been doing for the last 20 years? Ghada is in the forefront of changing society expectations and the way families cope with disability at home. She has been expressing her convictions, quite often against the tide, and doing it with vigour, determination, and a loving heart."

Ghada Harami believes that though disabilities are all around us, they are challenges that can be overcome. They can be stepped over and left behind completely through a desire to be liberated from disabilities and a refusal to allow them to overpower us.

Ivan Magnussen, who twenty years ago introduced Ghada to the rehabilitation world, recalls his first encounter with her. “I had just arrived in Palestine,” he says, “and I needed support. Ghada joined our team, and with remarkable speed she became an expert on rehabilitation in Palestine.” Ivan sums up by saying: “As I look back, I am very happy that I met her.”

Ghada has dedicated her time and life to the advancement of people with disabilities in Palestine through her work at Diakonia and the Norwegian Association of Disabled (NAD). Throughout her life she has not ceased to impress and empower those around her. Her family and colleagues admire her ability to equally overcome the difficulties that are inherent in life and those specific to life in Palestine. She proves that hard work and determination have payoffs. Her belief in better ways of living inspires those with or without disabilities to work harder.

A working mother of three, Ghada Harami has perfected the concept of “multitasking,” her daughter Lina proudly says. “She can manage five pots on the stove, fold laundry, and wash the dishes all at once,” Lina recalls from her childhood.

Dr. Allam Jarar, who has known Ghada for 17 years, says that one of the moments that stands out the most in his mind is at the Palestinian Legislative Council during a debate on Disability Law. “There I saw Ghada firsthand as a tough and brave fighter with vision and enthusiasm,” he said.

As an adult, Lina contemplates that her mother has an ability to accept people and yet offer to help them; an ability to listen to people and express her opinion to them; an ability to really see people and a willingness to share herself with them; she has the ability to show her love through giving the right kind of help needed at the right time, without asking.

“In peace and in war,” notes colleague Yens Mjaugedal, “Ghada has an ability to maintain who she is and what she stands for. She is the best compass an individual can have,” adds Yens. “She remains who she is, regardless of the chaos that is life.”

Her idea of change and improvement is not one that happens on its own through the progression of history but one that is acquired and worked hard for. For Ghada, change and improvement are actively sought after through a love for Palestine and a desire for better Palestinians to inhabit it; a Palestine that accepts and endorses all people.

“She is working hard to improve the living conditions of her people, and she is doing it with vision, dedication, and determination,” says Christoffer Sjöholm, another colleague.

Dr. Lamis Abu Nahleh maintains that though Ghada has exceptional abilities, “she remains modest and real. She is very insightful, organised, and appreciative, yet humble. Always alert and willing to take life in as it comes, she does not let any moment or event that touches her soul pass by unnoticed.”

Ghada’s ability to reach people knows no boundaries. A grandmother to three-year-old Nara and toddler Ghassan, “She is the most fun grandmother ever,” adds Lina. “And Nara, even when she is impossibly irritated and confused, finds consistent comfort and tranquillity with her,” says Lina.

Lina says finally that her mother is a firm believer in long-term planning. “She does not believe in temporary satisfaction or results.”

The long-term plan, Ghada would undoubtedly agree, would be to turn disabilities into small, weak nothings, and have people, all people, emerge as wholesome, empowered beings. In a nutshell, Ghada wants to see the Palestinian Disability Law implemented, and that day cannot come too soon.

Text compiled by Jihan Abdalla and Irene Siniora.

TWIP September 2009

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