“It’s a dream come true”
Ghazal and Nahla live in northern Syria. They have opened the region’s only prosthetics and orthotics workshop, enabling people injured in the conflict or amputees to be orthopaedically fitted. Handicap International has been working with them for several weeks: the organisation has trained them to improve their production techniques.
Ghazal, delighted to share his story. | © M.Legrand / Handicap International
Ghazal and Nahla would not be doing what they are doing today if a set of tragic circumstances created by the war in Syria, had not revealed their vocation. In 2013, the conflict came crashing into the couple’s lives when one of their cousins had to have a leg amputated and, unable to move around, fell into a deep depression.
At the time, Ghazal was working for a disabled children’s organisation he had set up with a friend. This athlete shared his passion for sport with the young people he met, encouraging them to overcome the obstacles in their way. Nahla, inspired by her husband’s commitment, also worked for a while as an aerobics instructor in the same centre. Secure in their belief that nothing was impossible and driven by the desire to give hope to people with disabilities, the couple wanted to do something to help their cousin, who had fallen into despair since his amputation.
Ghazal decided to make him a prosthesis to help him walk again. He studied day and night, watching videos he found on the internet and reading books in Arabic on how to produce prostheses. He bought the equipment, tested out his designs and asked his relatives for their opinion. Gradually, his pastime became his passion and he decided to quit his job, to focus on his new vocation.
Nahla, whose workplace had been destroyed by a rocket, decided to help her husband in this adventure. She overcame her concerns about seeing amputees on a daily basis, and the more she saw the joy in the faces of the people fitted by her husband, the more enthusiastic she became. Overtime, Ghazal perfected his technique and more and more people contacted the couple to benefit from their services.
But Nahla and Ghazal’s village came under attack and they had to face up to a new challenge. Determined not to stop producing prostheses, Ghazal and Nahal moved into their workshop with their first child. Outside, they received new patients in a caravan, which they used to accommodate people who had come from far away to be fitted with a prosthesis. Because the journey is costly and dangerous, the couple also fed their patients and always worked for free. Their greatest regret was not being able to fit everyone who came to them, because they didn’t have enough time or money.
That’s when Handicap International got in touch with Ghazal and Nahla to suggest working together. The organisation decided to offer the couple an eight-week training course to help them perfect their production techniques and adapt to the difficult situation in which they work. Nahla recalls, laughing: “Ghazal kept on saying that his dream had come true when he got the organisation’s proposal.” Although Nahla now realises the benefits of the training course. “It has been really useful to get advice from professionals and it will help us improve the quality of our prostheses and adapt them to the needs of our patients in Syria.”
Handicap International is keen to form closer ties with the couple to make sure amputees and people with disabilities in Syria get the support they need. For Ghazal and Nahla, every day is more like a dream: “We want to become excellent technicians to train other people to produce prostheses. Our goal now is to open the first prosthetics and orthotics production training centre in Syria.”