A few years ago, May Zein Eldin was a regular mom whose only worries were school grades and bad influence until one day she received a phone call about her son’s Al Hassan accident that resulted in being bound to a wheelchair. Driven by the desire to change her son’s reality, May founded Al-Hassan Foundation with the aim to help integrate the differently abled in Egypt.
With a resilient will, May is paving the way for wheelchair users in Egypt to have an independent everyday life. The Foundation works with German manufacturers who produce high-tech wheel chairs customized to each user. They provide practical, realistic and modern solutions through a variety of development projects that ensure the effective integration of people with physical differences and give them opportunities to use their physical differences in a positive and effective manner. The foundation also has an information hub, which focuses on information about wheelchair users in Egypt and provides information to other NGOs who need a reliable database for their projects. We’ve met with May to tell us more about her foundation.
After the phone call with the news about your son, how did this turn your life, and thousand others’ lives around?
After you hear the news, you do not really see the future, you just instantly act according to the situation. Afterwards, things develop in a way that they might not have necessarily considered, and they find that some doors start to open in a certain direction that they have not really planned. Since it was difficult to live a normal life given the lack of infrastructure, I promised Al-Hassan that I will change Egypt for him since I cannot change what happened.
Are you currently providing or planning to provide psychological assistance to the people who suddenly get into a situation where they need to be on a wheelchair?
We don’t have anything medical in the institution. What we do is for the successful people on wheel chairs, they become the shadows for the people who get into accidents, or have a problem and need a coach to help them around until they pass a certain milestone.
What are the trials and tribulations of starting a similar initiative in Egypt?
There are a lot of successful foundations. For me, the equation to success in Egypt specifically needs one to be very resilient and to never give up because the ropes are a bit longer here. The second thing is that one has to love the things they do and be passionate about them because without the passion, we cannot do it. Thirdly, one has to have the knowledge that could back up the initiative they’re trying to establish. So the equation of success in Egypt is not only scientific or studied in books, there are a lot of things relevant to culture and more that needs to be put into consideration.
What can you tell the parents who underwent the same situation with their sons?
First, don’t hide your kids. Don’t feel ashamed as if that’s the end of the world. When parents are broken, they break their kids with them. I’m not saying that we should not have humane emotions or feel sad, and we might ask ourselves why me? Or why my son? But we cannot stop here. And we must figure out how to move forward. I see a lot of parents that stop in this station for 1, 2, to 10 years. It’s an equation of acceptance both in strength and weakness.
Where do you see the differently abled in Egypt in 5 years?
I hope that we have more inclusion in schools and colleges. The issue has to start from below. If I have a kid and start from childhood, I’ll raise someone who’s psychologically stable in the community and accepted. Why sympathize with them? I hope we can accept one another in all our differences. It’s a complete system. We should develop the mentality that I can accept you even when you’re completely different from me. I don’t have to be like you, but I can accept you.