Ahmed looks down at his arms and legs as he explains, "I was born like that. I cannot use my legs because they are deformed so are my hands and arms.”
However, he points out, “I still can use my hands to catch things."
This optimism is typical of Ahmed. He has never let challenges prevent him from achieving his goals and he is recognized as an important member of his community. "My friends used to come to me every morning, pushing my wheelchair to school. I used to fix many electrical devices at home and help many friends identifying issues they had with their phones. I was very ambitious and wanted to become an engineer when I grow up.”
Wheelchair bound, the remote location of the faculty – on the city outskirts and far from his home in the Mualla district in Aden – prevented Ahmed from studying engineering. But it did not stop him from obtaining a university degree. Endlessly determined, Ahmed studied sociology – his second love. "It seemed strange to many students that a person like me would be able to complete four years of college. However, being sociable and friendly with everyone, I coped with the situation and owned the respect of my friends – who also played a major role in my current success.”
Even with his sociology degree in hand, he never lost his passion for electrical engineering. “Engineering was always there – in my blood," he insists. At the same time, he needed to secure a reliable income source:
"My father and mother are retired and their salary is barely enough to pay for basic needs of my family. I always wanted to start a small business support the whole family. So my ultimate dream was to find a grant that would help me to open my small store for mobile maintenance.”
In August 2017, Ahmed learned about the UNDP's Yemen Stabilization Programme in through social media. The programme provides participants with vocational and business training. Those who propose sound business plans then receive small grants, enabling them to launch their own small enterprises. As a participant in the programme, Ahmed was trained in mobile maintenance and business management. He then developed an execution plan and subsequently used his grant money to set up shop.
"The vocational and business training courses widened my knowledge in mobile maintenance and running a small business, and made my dream comes true," he says.
"I devoted part of the front side of my family's house as a store and bought the maintenance equipment and accessories. Now, people come to me to fix their mobile phones, buy accessories or charge their phones with credits. They also come to pay off their landline phone and Internet bills through a system I have in my computer, in return for small fees."
"I am self-reliant now. I pay the needs of my college studies from the money I make from my own business. My family and friends are all proud of me that I could beat the physical disability by reaching my target. People now trust me that I can fix their mobile phones successfully."
But Ahmed is not satisfied just yet: "My next plan is to improve my capabilities and skills through additional courses on computer maintenance and English language. I also will work hard to expand my business in the future."
The Yemen Stabilization Programme is designed to increase socioeconomic opportunities, improve basic service delivery and strengthening community-based protection. Funded by the Government of Japan, this US$20 million project is implemented by UNDP in partnership with the For All Foundation (FAF) and Oxfam.