MENACatalyst reached out to the founders of Habaybna.net, Reem and Mohammad Alafranji to learn how their platform is empowering families with special needs children across the MENA region.
What is Habaybna.net?
Habaybna.net is an online resource on intellectual disabilities in Arabic. We provide knowledge and information via a Video Library, facilitate parents’ access to resources via the Directory and connect parents with specialists in Rehabilitation and Special Education to have 1:1 guidance via Tele-Coaching service in addition to connecting parents with peers for support.
Having a child with an intellectual disability requires a lifetime of adjustments and continuous support. However, for parents in the region, there aren't many helpful resources in Arabic. With Habaybna.net, we are aiming to accelerate parents' access to services, guidance, and the knowledge they need to make better decisions for their child and family as quickly as possible and provide support whenever they need and wherever they are in the region.
Although we are originally from Gaza, we launched Habaybna.net in December of 2017, and are currently based in Amman Jordan.
Where did the idea behind Habaybna.net come from? And what inspired you to turn it into a reality?
The idea behind Habaybna.net started when I moved with my sons to Amman in 2011, and I immediately started looking for the specialized programs that they needed. On my way, I joined a parents support group of parents with similar journeys, after joining it, I started working with the NGO called Sana For Special Individuals, which is an organization founded by a group of parents who have children with intellectual disabilities. I started as an Admin Officer there and then later became a program manager.
My work with the Sana organization lasted for four years, it not only empowered me and helped me cope as a parent, but it helped empower my sons. Throughout this time, I got to meet with other parents and learn how to support my children throughout the different phases of their lives.
This motivated me to co-create and produce “Team Hero Cartoon,” which was funded by the Abdulhameed Shoman Foundation, UNICEF, and Jordan Bromine. The show now airs on the children’s network MBC3 and is helping millions of children understand that disability is part of diversity. I decided to do this show because I wanted to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions about children with intellectual disabilities while shedding a light on their abilities and humanity.
After this, and after learning more about Social Entrepreneurship in Sweden via the She Entrepreneurs Program, I joined forces with my husband, and together we launched Habaybna.net, to help the many parents and friends who were referring other parents to us, find guidance and support.
What is the problem that Habaybna.net is directly solving and who are you targeting?
Millions of parents have children with intellectual disabilities in the MENA region, yet they do not know where to go to find the support they need. With Habaybna.net, we help the parents, caregivers, junior therapists, teachers, and family members of children with intellectual disabilities find the support, guidance, and knowledge they need to care for them.
Can you talk a little bit about the team behind your platform?
After launching a crowdfunding campaign and raising an additional amount from an impact investor, we were able to establish a small team of 5 people. In addition to my husband Mohammed, who is Co-founder and Marketing and Business Development Manager, there is Community Manager Mustafa Denuo, Operation Coordinator Islam Rumieh, and Content editorial Ghada Faisal. We also work with many freelancers for content, filming, and Technology development.
How are you getting the word about Habaybna.net out there?
We spread awareness via our digital media efforts. We also perform awareness campaigns, sessions, and activities to various private sector organizations that we collaborate with, such as Zain, Hikma, and Bank Al-Etihad.
Where do you see Habaybna.net in the next few years?
We aim to become part of the growth journey of millions of children with intellectual disabilities across the MENA region. To this end, we are working to improve our user experience and developing content/tools that are needed for the different phases of a child’s life, from early intervention, education, pre-vocational programs, Employment. And with the mobile app, we want to be in the pocket of every parent, being their backup and support for years, until they share their stories of impact on Habaybna.net to inspire other parents and the community.
What are some of the causes that you are passionate about and what impact are you working to achieve?
For starters, I am very passionate about supporting the inclusion of children and people with intellectual disabilities. And throughout my journey for the last few years, I became passionate about the economic empowerment of adults with intellectual disabilities and how we can utilize social entrepreneurship for them and their families to create self-employment opportunities.
In terms of impact, we want to improve the lives of children with intellectual disabilities across the region and help them live a meaningful life.
To learn more, visit: https://habaybna.net
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