Ghali, 18, lives with cerebral palsy that affects his movement, coordination and speech. Life hasn’t been easy since conflict forced him and his family to flee their home in Daraa for the Syrian capital, Damascus.
Like many people with disabilities in Syria, Ghali has been grappling with many barriers that hinder his full and meaningful participation. Nine years of the current violent crisis in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, have only exacerbated his experience of exclusion.
Ghali, which means “precious” in Arabic, has just graduated from high school and is looking forward to college. Since a very young age, he had a passion for computers. With what available resources he could find online, and sheer determination, he taught himself several programming languages such as Java, Python and many more. He even developed a mobile application that provides text to voice translation to help him communicate and overcome his speech impediment.
“I’ve always dreamed about studying computer science and specializing in programming so I can develop digital solutions to help myself, and others like me overcome some of our daily challenges” he says.
Thanks to the generous donations from people around the world and matched funds from the Government of Finland, through the “Un-silence my world” crowdfunding campaign in Syria, Ghali received a free internet bundle of 50 gigabytes per month for one year.
Like many vulnerable people in Syria, Ghali suffered from several difficulties that prevented him from having a stable connection such as slow internet connection, and frequent electricity cuts, as well as the high cost.
“Having a 4G data connection allows me to have better and smoother access to information on time. It is very fast compared to the frustratingly slow connection at my house that I had to share with my parents, brother and sister,” he said.
Explaining the rationale for the initiative, UNDP Project Manager, Louay Fallouh says, “It was alarming to see the low number of students with disabilities applying for the high school exams. We saw a huge need for connectivity, especially during lockdown where internet is more of a lifeline to persons with disabilities.”
An estimated 27 percent of the total population in Syria suffer from some form of disability, and Ghali is one of the 13 percent of people with disabilities that represent high school students.
The “Un-silence my world” crowdfunding campaign was a part of a pilot regional individual giving initiative of the Regional Bureau for Arab States in UNDP entitled “Solidarity against COVID-19: Together we are one!”. It took place in seven Arab countries.
Ghali is applying to the Syrian Virtual University and he hopes that the internet package provided by UNDP will help him achieve his goals and realize his dreams.
Written by Asma’ Nashawati, Communications Associate, UNDP Syria