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Sunday, August 09, 2015

Yemen: Becoming Each Other's Heroes

While many of us in the bleeding disorders community head to Dallas this week to attend our national conference, halfway around the world, a young man with hemophilia struggles to make a difference. Abdulhakeem Saeed As-Sabri is only 27, and shouldering the leadership mantle in a country of 24.1 million, a country that is one of poorest and most violent in the Middle East. His efforts are impressive, his obstacles huge. Read about his dreams and be inspired. 



Yemen's Life Pulse: Social Entrepreneurs
Posted 7.27.15

By Abdulhakeem Saeed As-Sabri

We don't fit the mold of typical "heroes," especially not here in Yemen.

Very often, people think physical weaknesses lead to low performance levels. But earlier this year, my friends and I ­­ all of us hemophiliacs ­ ­ helped to rescue a child by getting him urgent medical care.

I'm 27 years old and I live in Sana'a, the capital of Yemen. I did not grow up dreaming of becoming a social entrepreneur who would found an organization to help save lives. But that was before I knew that I had hemophilia, in a country where there are no specialized medical centers to help hemophiliacs.

Hemophilia is a disease where your body can't clot blood. It prevents a person from living normally, like anyone else in the community. Here in Yemen, hemophilia patients can't secure medical treatments easily. If you don't have hemophilia, it's hard to understand what it means for the people who do. As a hemophilia patient, you suffer physically and psychologically: you can't practice any sport except swimming, and you can't walk for long distances. Any simple injury endangers your life. As a child, I wasn't able to play with other kids, because I could get injured. As an adult, I couldn't build relationships with others, and I had to be absent from school and university for long periods of time.

The only solution to the disease is to have the medical treatments you need on time. But in Yemen, very few hemophiliacs can get the care they need, even before the most recent violence started. I believe we can make change. Why? Because a few years ago, after 18 months of unemployment, I went through a professional training program to help me find a job. But the skills I acquired during this training pushed me to do more, and to overcome my disease and follow my dream. After I finished this program, offered by Education For Employment, I got a job that I was passionate about, and this was life­changing. I no longer felt incapable or discouraged. I became ambitious and confident in my skills. I challenged myself in ways I never thought were possible, and I learnt especially the importance of getting involved and helping others.

So, I founded "Life Pulse."

Life Pulse is an initiative for all hemophilia patients that encourages them to participate in the society as effective people working for the sake of the development of their country. Life Pulse Initiative doesn't have special donors but we rely on loans, and people's donation of medicine. The beginning of the initiative was with the support of Yemen Education For Employment and Al­Atta'a Foundation for supporting hemophilia patients; without this support, it would have been impossible for me to bring "Life Pulse" to life.

Today, "Life Pulse" is changing many people's lives. We teach first­aid methods that help save lives, we try to develop and improve blood transfusion services, we take part in blood­donation campaigns during World Blood Donor Day, we participate in youth­initiative conferences, and most importantly, we train groups of patients and coordinators in "How to Get a Job." Of course, we are growing and taking part in more activities as we move forward. The initiative is very active and is the only one of its kind in Yemen. Still, the instability in my country has definitely made my work more difficult. Sometimes work would need to be stopped because of lack of medicine and security. There is also always a fear that I will wake up to the news that a patient had died because he did not get his medicine.

These things make my work more challenging but they have not stopped me from being confident enough to overcome challenges every day and continue to do what I do. My social entrepreneurship has taught me that that all successful work starts as a dream. Young people should look for the most important issues to them and help the society change for the best. For their part, leaders need to encourage volunteering initiatives by making decisions that help the initiatives work and help to raise awareness around the importance of volunteering. My dream for Life Pulse Initiative is to help all hemophilia patients in Yemen physically and psychologically for a better future. In doing this, I am helping myself, my family, and people who, like me, are in need of support and encouragement. Together, we can be each other's heroes.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Education For Employment (EFE), the leading youth employment nonprofit network in the Middle East and North Africa. 

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