Baraka Blog

Growing thoughts

Tag Archives: Gaza

Khalil’s Story – 4th Update

Khalil spent the past few days completing the written exams, and receiving internet and email training.

He is also signed up to the PCRF Online Social Community,  to begin interacting with volunteers digitally.  The objective is to enable Khalil to communicate with volunteers and community members he met during his visit after he returns to Gaza. Please join the community, connect with Khalil and send him words of encouragement.

Khalil watched videos of an MIT double amputee scientist, Dr. Hugh Herr who is working to develop smart prosthetic limbs, and a video on two college students who are developing diving limbs for amputee divers.

Iman, Patients Affairs Coordinator with the PCRF discussed with Khalil his future plans, and desires.  He answers speaking of great far reaching goals and aspirations, but quickly recalls the reality of life in Gaza and wonders if anything is possible.  He makes one statement “I dream to be in the Olympics”, and follows it with “But how can that ever happen? Do you realize our schools aren’t like Dubai, our classrooms have 50 students and we don’t have any physical education at school!”

Tomorrow Khalil completes the Confined Water Dive Sessions. Please stay tuned for his progress.

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Khalil’s Story – 3rd Update

8:30am, Khalil and I head to the dive center. On the way, I asked Khalil what he imagined he would grow up to do… “Nurse, I always wanted to help others, after my accident, I enrolled in a first aid and CPR course”.

There we were met by Ernst and Ali Bin Thaleth who generously offered to photograph Khalil’s dive. We got into our wetsuits, assembled our gear and headed to the pool.

Before his briefing, Khalil shared details of his accident with the group. He said, “That day, I decided to bathe. Because of the air-strikes, I had gone for nearly a month without bathing. I prayed at the mosque, and headed home, where my brothers and I sat in our living room.  Within minutes, we heard noises, an explosion on our street, people screaming. We ran to our grandmothers’ home. There, we were joined by a neighbor and her children. ”

“Thirteen of us huddled in a room; when the shell hit, my youngest brother was thrown out of his chair, and laid motionless in my mothers’ arms.  My other brother was running around the room, face covered with blood, screaming; the neighbor’s chair was struck from beneath, and folded onto her and minutes later, I felt nothing. I could hear them calling my name, I thought I was answering, but my breath withheld the sound.”

“I could hear them call my name.. but I was covered with rubble; the side wall had collapsed and landed on my legs. I vaguely remember being transported to the hospital in a car. I became conscious at dawn the next morning, looking across I saw the doctor praying. I asked about my brothers, the doctor told me to pray.”

Transitioning back to where we were physically after Khalil’s emotional account was more difficult for us than it was for him. He was ready to dive.

Khalil was in the pool until 12:30, completed Confined Dive 2 & 3.  He practiced swimming with the webbed gloves Mahmoud bought for him to support his movement in water.

To my surprise, Khalil performed the CESA (Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascend) with relative ease, an exercise many dive students had to repeat several times before perfecting it.

Thanks Lisa Katayama, Joichi Ito for documenting Khalil’s lesson. (All photos taken by Joi are licensed under the Creative Commons)

Thank you Rabea Ataya and Ruba Tabari for stopping by to check on Khalil’s progress and cheer him on.

Thank you Ali for taking amazing photos of Khalil, which we will share with the public in the near future.

Thank you Mahmoud for bringing the gloves, and a big thanks to Ernst, your patience and care for Khalil is an example for all of us.

Next step.. Khalil has to complete Chapters 4 & 5, and head to the Open Water… please stay tuned.

Khalil’s Story – 2nd Update

Khalil called last night to report that he had completed 3 out of the 5 chapters and was ready for the written tests. By 9am he was at the dive center, waiting for Jo to complete the tests.  Jo & Abood carried Khalil up to the classroom on the second floor of the Pavilion dive center. There Jo spent four hours showing Khalil PADI videos and translating the content and tests to Arabic. by 2pm, Khalil had completed and passed the tests.

At 4pm, Mahmoud & Jo spent took Khalil into the pool for Confined Water Pool Session #1.  Khalil had some difficulty performing the controlled ascend, which requires a diver to fin upwards to the surface.  With the help of a pair of Webbed gloves, Khalil used one hand to help him ascend.

Saturday, is Khalil’s next pool session. He will complete 2 in the morning, and if weather conditions permit, he would complete  Open Water Session #1.

Thanks to many of you who spread the word, we are receiving an outstanding amount of interest and support from the Media… please continue to share Khalil’s story with others.  His aim is to raise awareness on the growing cases of amputees in Gaza, Iraq and other places in the middle east, rally communities to support them with medical care and physical rehabilitation programs.

Please stay tuned for more..

Khalil’s Story… “Disability is a state of mind”

Khalil is a remarkable young man. The sparkle in eyes attest to that.

January 16th, 2009, the skies rained shells on Gaza.  Khalil, 15 years old, was at his grandmother’s house with his two brothers. He recounts the event to Iman Odeh Yabroudi, the PCRF Patient Affairs coordinator in great detail; describing the brightness of light, thunderous roaring sounds, and ash smells of the time the shell struck.

Khalil says he was the lucky one. His younger brother Muhanad, 8years, lost his life; another brother, Abdulhadi, 14 years old, lost an eye.  Their father, who had been working in Israel, had to leave his job to care for his two surviving boys.  The family survives on the sales of house-hold goods the father makes on a street side in Gaza along with a few kind contributions from family, neighbors and friends.

Khalil came to Dubai through the PCRF. Mohamad Bin Rashid AlMaktoom Foundation is sponsoring his medical treatment (fitting him with prosthetic limbs).  The volunteers of the PCRF in the UAE do their best to ensure a comfortable stay for the PCRF patients.  This includes hosting the children and exposing them to a range of activities aimed at rebuilding their self-confidence.  The children are offered a range of age-appropriate  activities to choose from.  Khalil chose scuba diving.

With the help of Tawasul founder Ernst van Der Poll, and Pavilion Dive Center, Khalil had a Discover Scuba PADI experience arranged.  We met at the dive center earlier this morning. Khalil was anxious. He sat listening intently to instructions.

Khalil, assisted by Jo, donned his dive gear, leaned forward and got into the pool.  Those of you who’ve experienced diving know that the first time you enter the water, it takes you a while to get comfortable with scuba gear. Weights, BCD, Tank, Mask, Regulator.. a lot to keep track of.  For Khalil, it came naturally; within seconds, he we ascended to the bottom, and used his hands to move forward in the pool. Ernst and Jo completed the skill review and in 40 minutes Khalil surfaced.  His smile radiated.

The sea was rough on the main beach-front, so I thought we would call it a day. Seeing Khalil’s eagerness for more, Ernst suggested a sea discover-scuba session into the secondary beach-front, calmer and shallower.  Jo and Ernst carried Khalil to the sea-shore, there he donned his equipment, and the three disappeared into the sea. They surfaced 40 minutes later.

Khalil’s exhilaration left his voice trembling. He kept repeating “Ya Allah”, “Amazing”, “I did it”. He saw a sting ray and fish. Jo and Ernst carried him back to his wheelchair.

A while later, Ernst completed the paper-work for Khalil’s discover scuba certificate, and asked Khalil if he wants to do a full scuba open water certification. Khalil didn’t hesitate for a second.   I gave Ernst a questioning look, he and I knew the commitment it required, and the logistical challenges of getting it done; he gave me a comforting nod and said “we’ll make it happen”.

Iman signed up Khaill, who committed to reading the 5 chapter book and completing the written portion of the course in a week.

Please stay tuned for more developments on Khalil’s progress.

I wonder if he knows …

Standing  in line to get a signature, the man behind the counter looks up, his expression: apathetic, his tone: sarcastic, he says: “what’s your rush? wait, the process takes time”.

I wonder if he knows, the value of this time I spend waiting in line, waiting for signatures, waiting for him to return my call, waiting for his CEO to get back in town, waiting for his CFO to approve funding;

I wonder if he knows a child who has just lost his mother under the rubble of their home is waiting for a doctor to save his life;

that doctor waits for the funding that needs the signature of the CFO who needs the approval of the CEO who has yet to read my proposal!

He says “wait a minute”. I wonder if he knows he holds the life of a child in the document he needs to sign. A minute has gone by.. I wonder if he knows 17 children die every minute.

help a child http://www.pcrf.net