A program run by OT Associate Professor Rawan AlHeresh is one of the few in the world utilizing a community–academic partnership that sustainably improves lives through rehabilitation.

Classes may be in full swing this fall at the MGH Institute, but for a handful of Doctor of Occupational Therapy Students, a summer experience in Amman, Jordan is very fresh in their minds and the mind of Dr. Rawan AlHeresh, who started “Toward an All-Inclusive Jordan,” an academic-community partnership program under the umbrella of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA’s) that just finished its sixth year. 

“Toward an All-Inclusive Jordan” is the only program in Jordan – and perhaps in the UNRWAs portfolio – that operates on a partnership between academia and the community targeting people with disabilities. 

“There's a lot of rehab programs that do direct one-on-one,” says AlHeresh, an associate professor of occupational therapy who founded the program in 2018. “But ours is focused on community empowerment. We focus on sustainability, so that's what distinguishes our programming.”

For the first time since COVID, OTD students were able to travel to the Community-Based Rehabilitation Center in the AlBaqaa Refugee Camp, home to Palestinian refugees displaced by the Israeli occupation. Here, the students trained community-based rehabilitation (CBR) workers – volunteers with minimal training . 

This video captures some of the highlights of this summer’s session.

“The leadership in the CBR center asked us to assist them in identifying and training the CBR workers in assessment and developing treatment plans,” said AlHeresh, who came to the IHP is 2017, “and how to execute these plans in the home setting and community.”

That training is critical because non-locals won’t ever be let in to understand the true nature of disability, AlHeresh noted, thanks to the stigma that largely exists in the Middle East when it comes to developmental delays and disabilities such as autism, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, and Down Syndrome – conditions the students saw regularly.