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YAI Network Helps Make History in Jordan

April 21, 2011

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KARAK, Jordan – A crowd of nearly 1,000 gathered at Karak College University earlier today to commemorate the opening of the first two group homes for individuals with disabilities in Jordan, among the first in the Arab world.

"Words were just words a year ago, but now they have become results," His Royal Highness Prince Ra’ad bin Zeid of Jordan said during the uplifting ceremony.

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Twelve men, who had lived in an institution, today moved into the homes – two apartments across the street from the university. They took great pride in welcoming visitors to their homes, serving food, tea and coffee to their guests, as is customary in Jordanian homes.

When asked about the significance of the day, one of the men responded, "I am finally human."

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"Having been in the forefront of the social movement that led to the closing of institutions and the creation of a dignified community-based service system for people with disabilities in the United States more than three decades ago, I'm proud that our organization has played a pivotal role in helping to bring this truly historic moment to Jordan," said Dr. Philip H. Levy, Chief Executive Officer and President of the YAI Network.

Prince Ra’ad, who is President of Jordan's Higher Council for the Affairs of Persons with Disabilities, spearheaded the homes, which are part of an 18-month plan to enhance services for people with disabilities developed by the YAI Network, based in New York City. YAI has been serving people with developmental and learning disabilities and their families since 1957. YAI is helping Jordan develop standard evaluation standards for children and adults with developmental disabilities, as well as adult day and employment programs. YAI staff members have trained staff in the institutions who now are working in the community-based homes.

The project is supported by the United States Agency for International Development in collaboration with the Jordanian Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation.

"Today is a proud and historic day, but I want to emphasize that however important the milestone is, that it is but one step on a much longer journey," said Perry Samowitz, Senior Director of the YAI Network’s Education and Training Dept. “You are the first,” he said, directing his message to the 12 new residents, "but not the last."

Historic Day in Jordan

Fawzi Abu Hashish, YAI’s Regional Director for the Middle East who was born in Jordan, referred to the day as "a dream that has lived for so many years and now I see it coming to life before my eyes."

Fawzi has been instrumental in training staff of the group homes with YAI materials which he translated into Arabic.

"When we heard the new residents talk, it became evident that this was real work that was being done," said Matt Aubry, Director of YAI’s Development Dept. "This is just the beginning for people with disabilities in Jordan."