Sir Bobby Charlton Centre for landmine blast survivors opens in Amman

To celebrate the football legend’s 80th birthday, Sir Bobby’s charity, Find A Better Way, launches the first of many centers around the world to help land mine blast survivors.

The Sir Bobby Charlton Center for Support and Rehabilitation opens today in Amman, Jordan, to help land mine blast survivors who have fled the civil wars in Syria, Iraq, and other areas of conflict. According to Jordanian government figures, an estimated 1.4 million Syrian refugees have entered the Middle Eastern kingdom since fighting began in 2011. Many of these are facing additional severe challenges because of injuries from land mines and other explosive devices.

The Sir Bobby Charlton Center will be a joint venture between Sir Bobby’s UK-based land mine charity Find A Better Way, the Polus Center for Social & Economic Development, a US-based non-profit organization with 38 years of experience helping people with disabilities and victims of conflict, and Asia Development Training (ADT), a Jordanian-based charity that provides rehabilitation to survivors of conflict. By supporting partners with specialist local knowledge, the Sir Bobby Charlton Center will play an important role in supporting and coordinating physical and mental rehabilitation for civilian victims of the Syrian conflict.

The challenges confronting Syrian refugees, especially those who have lost a limb to a land mine blast, are vast and complex. These problems are exacerbated by the young age of a disproportionate number of refugees: approximately half are under the age of 18 and roughly 40% are under the age of 12.

In addition to the challenges of recovering from physical injuries, many of these children are at risk of developing significant mental health issues brought on by frequent exposure to trauma.

In a Migration Policy Institute survey of Syrian refugee youth* it was reported that 79% had experienced a death in the family. 60% saw someone get kicked, shot at or physically hurt, and 30% had themselves been kicked, shot at, or physically hurt. 45% displayed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (ten times the prevalence among children around the world) and 44% reported symptoms of depression.
Despite these high rates of physical and mental trauma, there is only limited access to experienced providers who are able to treat refugees effectively. Out of desperation, as Jordanian local facilities have struggled to cope with the flood of refugees, dozens of small, Syrian-community sponsored rehabilitation facilities have emerged around the country. Although playing a vitally important role in caring for refugees, many of these facilities have been forced to close owing to inadequate funding for equipment, medication, medical supplies or for lack of rehabilitation expertise. As the war has dragged on the needs have grown and the challenges have grown more complex.

The new Sir Bobby Charlton Center in Amman has been designed to support Syrian refugees directly and to act as a support for the other community-run centers across Jordan. It will provide rehabilitation services to hundreds of Syrian war wounded each year, especially children, and will also offer “Trainer of Trainer” programmes in several rehabilitation fields including physical therapy, child trauma, peer support and advance training in prosthetic/orthotic care and other mobility aides. Local and international subject matter experts will provide academic and “hands on practical training” in the fields of physical and psychological rehabilitation.

The Sir Bobby Charlton Center builds on work begun in 2009 by the Polus Center in Amman through support from the U.S. Department of State Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA), which has provided training in physical therapy, prosthetics, appropriate wheelchair seating and fitting, and trauma therapy for Syrian and Jordanian rehabilitation professionals and direct services for hundreds of war-wounded children and adults.

The launching of the first Sir Bobby Charlton Center takes place less than two months before Sir Bobby’s 80th birthday on 11 October, and Find A Better Way will be opening additional centers around the world in the next twelve months as part of the continued celebrations. Each center will be located in an area struggling with the devastating effects of land mines and other explosive remnants of war, and in partnership with local charities who will administer the centers and ensure that it is meeting the needs of the local community. Additional Sir Bobby Charlton Centers are currently planned to open in Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and rural Cambodia.

Sir Bobby Charlton commented: “The stories of land mine blast survivors in Jordan, especially those who are children, are incredibly moving. I’m thrilled that Find A Better Way is opening this center and that it is the first of many planned to open around the world. But most of all I am extremely honored that these centers will be named after me. It is a wonderful early 80th birthday present.”

Lou McGrath, CEO of Find A Better Way, commented: “The Syrian refugee community in Jordan, especially those coping with a lost limb or severe injury from an explosive device, are in desperate need in an environment of strained resources. We are very pleased to be opening the first Sir Bobby Charlton Center in Amman, and look forward to the day when it is one of many Sir Bobby Charlton Centers around the world, helping land mine blast survivors and communities coping with the impact of explosive remnants of war.”

Akram A Ramini, Executive Director and Founder of Asia Development Training, commented: “The Sir Bobby Charlton Center will be filling a much-needed role, providing support to the thousands of Syrian refugees in Jordan suffering from physical and mental trauma. We are looking forward to seeing patients, especially children, live happier, healthier lives, and hope some day to even treat people with similar problems coming from the conflicts in Iraq and even Yemen.”

* Migration Policy Institute Report (Lauren Rogers-Sirin & Lauren Rogers-Sirin, 2015). /research/educational-and-ment al-health-needs-syrian-refugee -children

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