Reem Alfranji

Reem Alfranji

Amman, Jordan

A mom of two children with intellectual disability who inspired me to be Founder and Co-creator/producer @TeamHeroCartoon

About me

With Queen Rania AlAbduallah in March 2018,  after the launch of with my husband and sons, Aboud and Amro.

Photo Credit: Queen Rania Blog

In 2009, I knew that my both sons are having a developmental disability. We were living in Gaza Strip in Palestine… Since then, they both were rejected from schools and preschools due to their disability.

Due to the discrimination and the lack of specialized programs in Gaza, in 2011, I had to move with them to Amman - Jordan so they can get the specialized programs that they needed and they were 6 and 4 years old at that time with no education at all, no skills and totally dependent on me.

After being in a specialized center where they started to get individualized educational programs, life started to change, they started learning and acquiring new skills… and I started to have a positive outlook for their future. When I started having the guidance from the specialists in special education and rehabilitation on how I can deal with my sons uniqueness, improve their skills and deal with daily challenges. I started educating myself on this new journey to unlock my sons’ potential.

Now, after 10 years, I could see how education is transforming my sons lives, and how they acquired new skills and became more independent. My sons are now 15 and 13, they can communicate, they have social skills, computer skills, internet skills and we are preparing them for the vocational phase, where we want to build on their abilities and skills a meaningful and productive life in a few years from now.

Due to my experience with my sons and other parents like me, I had a firm belief that no child should be left behind and educating children with intellectual disabilities is and essential element for their development.

That’s why, In 2017, my husband and I launched, an online resource on intellectual and developmental disabilities in Arabic, to help parents across the MENA region improve the lives and abilities for their loved ones with intellectual disability and provide an immediate guideline and continuous support throughout different life milestones. Learn more from here.

One of the biggest challenges we face when we know about the disability of our child is that we focus on their disability and their diagnoses, forgetting that they need to learn and get educated from an early phase. Not so many parents recognize the importance of early intervention and early education for a child with intellectual disability and the impact it has to help them become independent when they grow up.

Having in mind and heart to educate and inspire parents like us on the different forms of education that their children with intellectual disability can have, and include education as a priority for their child’s plan no matter what his or her abilities.

The platform provides three main features:

1. A video Library with 800+ filmed videos to educate parents how they can deal with and improve the skills of their loved ones with intellectual disabilities from early phases, education till employment. 200+ specialists and parents participated in this library with a big focus on special education and inclusion at schools.

2. A directory that facilitates parents access to services, educational resources and tools they need.

3. Tele-coaching service to connect parents with specialists in Special Education or Rehabilitation to have 1:1 guidance on how they can improve a certain skill for their child with intellectual disability.

The word "Habaybna" in Arabic means "Our loved ones" and we believe children with all abilities are our loved ones.

In 2019, we got a grant prize from Expo2020 Dubai as part of Expo Live program, currently we are working on developing the technology of the platform to make it more interactive and help parents get the guidance that they need at the right time, whenever they need it and where ever they are in just few clicks.

We are so happy that hundreds of thousands of parents from across the MENA region are benefiting from and we are helping them become influential and feel loved and supported along with their children.  

This year we are talking to some partners like UNICEF and Oxfam in Jordan to maximaiz our impact. Our plan is to enrich the platform with educational resources in Arabic to help parents and educators in educating children with intellectual disabilities and help them acquire new skills.

We believe that “All Abilities Matter” and no child should be left behind no matter what abilities they have.

Why do you want to be a part of the HundrED Community?

If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.

Innovation starts with individuals but multiplies with communities. Being with a community that shares same values and purpose, futuristic and curiouse is one of the best ways to stay creative and maximize our impact. Communities like HundrED, are considered as an ecosystem for innovators, they keep us inspired, curious and help us to improve more so we can improve our communities in multiple ways.

Such communities can be an amazing opportunity for meaningful and impactful partnerships between different areas and sectors. They also help us look far away than our own horizones.

How can education support students to flourish?

Education and the learning process are instrumental in shaping a child's personality and mindset. Beyond degrees and helping a child read and write or being independent, education is key to make use of it for their own advantages and to utilize the knowledge for their growth. It facilitates the cultivation of a healthy thought process and groom their cognitive abilities.

In the present competitive world, education is a basic necessity for human beings after food, clothes and shelter.

It is not about learning life, but education itself is life, especially for students with developmental or intellectual disabilities. Education is the key to find great characters and potential hidden in every child and empowers students with any abilities.

What role does innovation play in education change?

Innovation in education means doing what’s best for all students. Teachers, lessons, and curriculum have to be flexible and creative to include all abilities. Ordinary education means transferring the knowledge and information to students, but innovation in education means we have to get our students to think, analyse, ask questions and make decisions. Innovation encourages children’s curiosity and helps them find ways to what they face.

Innovation means change, it gives students more than the skills they need to pass tests and exams and helps us to create new interactive tools that aims way further than now and the present.

If we are looking for a way to solve worlds biggest problems we need disruptive ways of education. The more we have innovative education methods, the more we connect students with their world, help them innovate solutions and engage in their societies effectivly from an early age.

Three HundrED innovations you love. (and Why?)

1. Roots of Empathy from Canada

I loved it because it reinforces many other important values among children from a young age and helps them build compassionate societies when they grow up. In so many times, Empathy sparks responsibility among children so they can have a better future for all.

As Dalai Lama once said: "The planet does not need more ‘successful people’. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds. It needs people to live well in their places. It needs people with moral courage willing to join the struggle to make the world habitable and humane”

2. (Don’t) Guess my race

I believe to more children learn about diversity and inclusion, the more they become tolerant to anyone who is different, whether becuase of a race, origin, religon or disability. As a person working to promote diversity, I can know the value of having such an amazing program that brings children together and helps them celebrate their differences so everyone feels included.

3. BRAC Humanitarian Play: 

I loved this innovation for many reasons, one of them is because it brings the power of play into some of the hard areas. While most entities focus on aids, emergency projects and providing essential support, some other needs for children are forgotten like play, and children not only live hardships, but also don’t have enough opportunities to flourish, be more creative or play!

Play is not a luxurious aspect in life, it’s essential for children to develop regardless of their status or location.

Three innovations you would love for HundrED to know about. (and Why?)

1. Sherketna - an initiative by Aljude for Scientific research in Jordan. 

Sherketna in Arabic means “our company”, and in this project, Aljude targets students in governmental schools in 9th-11th grades aiming to plant the seeds of entrepreneurship among them under the supervision of their teachers.

In each school, a group of students need to come up with an entrepreneurial idea they are passionate about, along with one of their school teachers, they start planning and budgeting to make it real. Aljude then invests 300 USD in each project, so this group implements the idea and out of the revenue, %70 has to be used in improving their school and the other %30 to be distributed among the team or re-invested in the project.

In 2019, Aljude implemented the project with 52 governmental school, engaged 104 teachers and 780 students. 47 schools could make 23,106 USD in revenue, while 1 had losses and 4 broke even. Read more here.

I love this innovation because it teaches students how to fish rather than giving them the fish.

2. Sadeq App from Jordan.   In Arabic Sadeq means Friend, and this App is to assist parents how they can connect with their children in a meaningful way. It includes many libraries of videos that give parents ideas on how they can play together, discuss big matters and have fun activities together because this affects the child’s development and personality and it helps them grow up in a healthier atmosphere. 

I also loved that it’s in Arabic, because we lack Arabic resources for parents.

3. Ustad mobile, a mobile app that brings educational libraries offline so people in remote areas can get a chance in education. The mobile App will be used soon in refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon. I love it becuase it contributes to inclusive education and helps those without connectivity to learn.