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"Now I feel part of the community": expanding access to services for Illar‘s disabled



"نحن الآن نشعر بأننا جزء من المجتمع" حنان وسالم من علار

مركز خدمة الجمهور في بلدية علار – طولكرم، يفتح أبوابه لاستقبال المستفيدين. حنان استطاعت لأول مرة زيارة مركز خدمة الجمهور برفقة كرسيها المدولب الذي لم يعقها اثناء دخولها للحصول على خدمات المركز "أنا سعيدة جداً بالتسهيلات الجديدة، استطيع الآن أن أنجز كافة احتياجاتي بنفسي، ولا أنتظر في المنزل فقط. اشعر بأني إنسانة منتجة في عائلتي".

تم تنفيذ مركز خدمة الجمهور في علار ضمن برنامج الحكم المحلي والبنية التحتية الممول من الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية USAID.


Power has long been an issue for Hanan Amer, 24, and her brother Salem Naji Abed, 27, residents of Illar village, in TulKarm governate. Disability affects six of the twelve children in their family but the congenital handicap has perhaps most influenced these siblings. Both are confined to electric wheelchairs and neither has full range of motion in their hands or arms. Their lack of access to basic services has grown to define their lives. Even simple tasks, like recharging the family’s electricity account at the local municipal office, were out of reach.


“I have felt like a burden to my family,” says Hanan. “Our healthy brothers work as laborers in agriculture or construction projects and work long days. They return home tired. We felt ashamed asking them to do more,” Salem adds.

Salem Naji Abed, used to attempt to recharge the electricity account on his own but the former municipal building had no handicap-accessible ramps or elevators. After negotiating his wheelchair over steep streets in town, “I used to have to wait outside the building for someone passing through to go tell one of the employees that I was outside. It was a nightmare,” says Salem. As for Hanan, she had never attempted the task.

Until today.


We meet Hanan and Salem at the new Citizen Service Center (CSC), opened for business October 2013. Open, airy and bright, Illar’s CSC is one of 16 scheduled and funded by USAID and implemented by Global Communities as part of the Local Governance and Infrastructure program (LGI).

Salem greets us first, followed by Hanan, who guides her wheelchair out of the mirrored elevator with ease. Both brother and sister smile brightly when they see all the visitors and Hanaan hides her laugh shyly as we welcome her. While we speak with other visitors, she rolls her chair to a low opening in the counter and a woman helps her recharge the electricity card. In a few moments, the transaction is complete, seeming so normal that few even notice it has happened.

“I am so happy with these new facilities,” Hanan tells us as we go down the ramp together, “Being able to help support my family is a success that I am proud of. I can now do things by myself.”


She has already started. Although the CSC has been opened only a few short weeks, Hanan wanted to know what the town planned to do with the old municipal building. “We have more than 120 handicapped people in Illar and no place to meet.” She pitched her proposal to the local council (they said yes!) and has started organizing the group.

“I don’t know yet exactly what we will do with the space. We want to have entertainment, to do activities, to meet together and talk. Since we are handicapped we are often deprived from going to school because there are no means to access the classrooms and some of us are slow to understand. But we are human and have all the rights! We want to be part of the community.”


Outside in the sunshine we share a rounded loaf of khoubez taboun. Sufian Shadid, the mayor, divides the bread and hands it around the circle. Everyone gets a piece.

The Citizen Service Centers are an initiative of the Local Government and Infrastructure Program (LGI), funded by USAID and implemented by Global Communities (formerly CHF