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August 15 2022 3:46 AM ˚
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Helping children with special needs become ‘self-reliant, productive and skilled’

Bahja means joy, and the word was used to raise the community’s awareness about children with special needs by spreading joy and love. (Photos: Handouts from Bahja)
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AMMAN — Bahja is an initiative that aims to bring about a positive change by spreading awareness about the importance of including children with special needs in the life of the community.اضافة اعلان

Luma Jamjoum, mother of a child with special needs founded the initiative hoping to enable him to “experience all that life has to offer”.

When her child started therapy, Jamjoum felt that because he had special needs, he had to act in ways that society approves of. Immersing in therapy sessions left no time to play and have fun.

(Photos: Handouts from Bahja) 

She started her initiative with a small group her house in 2017; the goal was to have children with special needs and their mothers together to have fun time and do entertaining activities so that both children and mothers could relax and enjoy their time.

“The atmosphere of the Bahja initiative is ideal to have fun and learn through play,” she said.

(Photos: Handouts from Bahja) 

Bahja means joy, and the word was used to raise the community’s awareness about children with special needs by spreading joy and love. According to Jamjoum, “joy was the missing thing” and “childhood is about the nostalgic memories of days spent playing, and having fun. Children with special needs need leisure time to be happy, and our children add joy to our lives”.

She chose the word “bahja”, she said, because it is the opposite of the society’s stereotypical perception that special needs children are downcast.

(Photos: Handouts from Bahja) 

As part of the initiative, activities are carried out for children with special needs to help them develop and use their talents, as well as to make them more effective and productive. The initiative helps children have more self-confidence and discover talents that help them flourish in society.

Jamjoum urges parents to make free time for their children to both focus on activities and engage in therapy.

“Playing and having fun helps children with special needs express their emotions,” she said.

(Photos: Handouts from Bahja) 

The initiative aims to make the surrounding community include these children a much as possible, Jamjoum said, stressing that children with special needs should be included in society through exploring activities and visiting different places, which encourages people and staff in public spaces to interact with these children and thus become more aware about them.

The initiative is carried out through a team of volunteers who are capable of dealing with children with special needs.

Moreover, it involves the siblings of these children in many activities in order to raise awareness about the fact that having a brother or a sister with special needs is normal; this helps create a wide support system among siblings.

It also organizes family support sessions for parents of children with special needs, in collaboration with life coaches who answer parents’ inquiries, assist them, and listen to them. The initiative also organizes awareness-raising interactive sessions in Jordanian schools.

Jamjoum said that there is improvement in the field, and an inclusive, supportive, and accessible environment for people with disabilities in many places and institutions in Amman.

Still, initiatives such as Bahja do encounter challenges; for Jamjoum, the most significant were financing and convincing parents of the importance of entertainment for children with special needs. On top of that, the COVID-19 pandemic reduced the number of children with special needs participating in activities; while before the pandemic, about 60 to 70 children would participate in each activity, nowadays they are approximately 15 children.

The founder is seeking to create a center that will host Bahja activities and enable children with special needs to learn skills they love, make and sell handmade products, and teach them how to be productive.

“Our goal is for children to be self-reliant, productive, and skilled,” Jamjoum said.

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