The effort of an Egyptian woman. Well done. Ahram Online, by Ingy Deif
An accident that left her son in a wheelchair set off a train of events that saw May Zain El Din establish a foundation for the differently-abled. She speaks to Ahram Online about her quest
"I felt eerily unhappy, like I had nothing else to offer life, and the latter had nothing to offer me. I left my job at one of the leading communication establishments in Egypt, only shortly to see that life was actually going to unfold in the most unexpected way," May Zain El-Din said, describing the time before the accident that left her son, Hassan, dependent on a wheelchair.
The smiling mother is a shining example of an extraordinary woman who refused to be defined by a striking tragedy almost five years ago.
She became determined afterwards to see changes to facilities dedicated to persons in the same situation in the country, founding Al-Hassan Foundation for the Inclusion of Differently-Abled People.
Over the course of its first three years, the foundation opened multiple doors to people in wheelchairs and others also "differently abled." Zain El Din shared with Ahram Online the story behind the groundbreaking project:
From Egypt to Germany
"After the accident and for three months we were overwhelmed with love and care, from doctors here in Egypt, and from our friends and family; and this flood of compassion was one of the huge motivations for me later to give back my community," Zain El Din says.
At that time and in a quest for thorough answers, Zain El Din headed with her son to a specialised hospital near Munich in Germany.
"They didn’t waste time, and at that very same day the doctors confronted us with what was known all the time by everybody except us. Hassan will never walk again."Zain El Din with Al Hassan
Leaning life from scratch
"The denial and the outrage on my side subsided to give space to rational thinking, and we started together a three-month journey of a daily routine in the hospital that saw my son learn from scratch how to perform basic daily activities.
"I was overwhelmed with the precision of the rehabilitation process and how they thought about everything, from increasing his physical abilities to opening doors of hobbies, interests and possibilities. The target was to let us believe and feel that life with its endless possibilities is not coming to an end, but rather taking a different form. And they succeeded.
"When we came back after three months to Egypt, I felt drained and devastated, as if the accident had just happened. I felt I needed time to heal, and it took me several months to get back on my feet," she recounts.
Birth of an idea
After several months, the idea of the foundation was not on the cards. It took three main events to bring it to the surface.
"The first one was a conversation I had with my son when I was completely devastated, and I was struck by the strength he developed over time.
"I found myself in front of an 18-year-old, in a wheelchair, assuring me that he was happy and in a good place, and it was then that I began feeling not entitled to such a state of devastation.
"Then I learned about a girl who had a similar accident, and I was asked to help with the knowledge we acquired. The bliss of reaching out to others helped me begin looking outside the scope of my ordeal," she adds.
The third turn of events was the final trigger of launching the foundation.
"It was when I started helping wheelers - whose medical condition was far worse than what we witnessed or who were less fortunate financially - that the urgency to be a factor of introducing change took me by storm," she explains.
Read on here.