“A person is helpless only when he loses a brain”
Moaz, 14 years
“If you lose a limb, this shouldn’t stop you. A person is helpless only if they loses their brain, but you didn’t, so you should pull yourself together and keep working.”
Douma, Rural Damascus, Syria, July 2021 - Four years ago, Moaz lost his right leg in a blast when he was going to the market to get some food for his family in his city of Douma, east Ghouta. Now, the 14-year-old is one of Douma’s renowned electrical technicians.
Since he was young, Moaz has had a thing for this profession, but things only kicked off after a visit to his friend’s father who was an electrical technician. To quench Moaz’s curiosity, the man showed him how his work was done. Shortly after that encounter, Moaz decided to establish his own electric repair workshop at home.
Moaz started with simple equipment; an electrical regulator he improvised that powered a welder and a pair of electric test clips. Then, he began to roam shops and offer to repair their burnt-out light bulbs, a relatively odd idea as most people dispose bulbs as soon as they break.
“People distinguished me from my wheelchair. ‘A boy on a wheelchair repaired a bulb for me,’ one would tell another and the word spreads,” explains Moaz. “Now, I’m so well known that people bring their broken light bulbs, LED lights and spotlights to my workshop.”
Through his workshop, Moaz tries to grow his business while contributing to his family’s income. The next milestone he’s planning to attain is repairing electric gadgets like TVs and irons.
Conflict kept Moaz out of school for two years, but he says that his injury intrigued him to focus more on his studies. “Education will enable me to become an electrical engineer as I always wanted,” he explains. He is now doing Grades 7 and 8 of UNICEF’s ‘Curriculum B’ programme, allowing children to combine two academic years in one to catch up to their peers.
Moaz says that it’s never easy to reach school on a wheelchair. “A friend of mine always accompanies me to school. When it’s winter it’s difficult, as roads get muddy and the wheels of my chair get stuck in puddles. Sometimes stray dogs appear on the way, but no matter what, we keep going.”
About a year ago, Moaz started receiving regular monetary assistance through UNICEF’s cash transfer to families with children with disabilities within the integrated social protection programme. The money mainly goes against paying Moaz’s workshop expenses. Some of it is also used for the family’s expenses.
“Don’t give up because of your injury,” says Moaz to all young people who got injured during the conflict. “If you lose a limb, this shouldn’t stop you. A person is helpless only if they loses their brain, but you didn’t, so you should pull yourself together and keep working.”
Since 2020, with thanks to generous contributions from Japan, Canada and the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), over 1,700 children have been benefitting from UNICEF’s cash transfer programme for children with severe disabilities in Rural Damascus.