“Play to Your Strengths”: Bader’s Message to People Living with Disability
02 December 2019
“I work hard to better myself and take advantage of every opportunity presented to me.
On December 3rd, the international day of persons with disabilities, Bader shares his experience, hoping to empower as many people living with disabilities as he can reach.
When 27-year-old Bader Al-Hajami found out that he would never be able to walk again, he was devastated. Hit with a mortar shrapnel, his spine and thigh were severely injured, causing a loss of mobility in his lower extremities. In addition to recovering from painful injuries, he found himself needing to adjust his whole lifestyle to accommodate his physical state, including learning to move with the aid of a wheelchair.
“At first, I was depressed; I felt so weak. I hated the wheelchair and couldn’t stand with the thought of needing support to move. However, it wasn’t long before I took control of my mental state and decided that this would be the beginning of a new chapter, and not the end for me. I would be the author of my story and live it as fully as I possibly could.”
Bader trained his hands to do what his legs now couldn’t. The journey wasn’t easy, but his motivation and determination to keep moving forward kept him in high spirits. Today, with the aid of his wheelchair, he moves around smoothly, climbing stairs and even participating in athletic sports. A long-time passionate basketball player, Bader trained to join the national basketball team. He has participated in many national and international championships, earning five gold medals and the name ‘the fastest player in Syria’. “Sports and regular exercise made my arms strong enough to support my daily life and work. They adapted to the function I needed them to be.”
Bader brings the same personal motivation to his career and is part of the communication team of the disability inclusion unit in the United Nations Development Programme in Syria.
“I work hard to better myself and take advantage of every opportunity presented to me. When UNDP Syria offered a vocational training on digital communication, I not only participated, but was at the top of the class, earning a digital camera and proving my skills. Three years later, I still work on communication projects with UNDP, and am independent of support.” Bader explains proudly.
Bader has also completed a project management course and volunteered in several humanitarian activities.
“Of course, I had my doubts. Could I become a photographer in an international organization while on a wheelchair? The answer was simple: I had to try.”
Today, Bader continuously conducts interviews and covers tens of reports for UNDP Syria. Additionally, he volunteers to offer psychological support to persons with disabilities and conducts various vocational training to persons with and without disabilities. “The first period was hard, but it changed me fundamentally, teaching me important values of independence, determination and hope.”, Bader says with a bright smile. “I realized the key to my success was right there, in my hands. I set goals for myself and worked hard to reach them daily. My wheelchair became my friend, giving me strength and enabling me to achieve more than I thought I could. I learned to look past my disability, the social constraints and everything that entailed, and instead to always look forward. I’ve chosen a unique and exciting road, and I’m still at the beginning!” Bader laughs.