The founder of a children’s center in Palestine has been nominated by Harvard University for Harvard’s Humanitarian Hero of the Year Award.
Jumana Odeh, a pediatrician who runs the Palestinian Happy Child Center in the West Bank city of Ramallah, founded the non-governmental center in 1994.
The center, which focuses on assisting children with disabilities and learning difficulties, claims to have helped with approximately 38,000 children and families since it began.
Odeh recently convinced Palestine’s health ministry to start a country-wide screening program to detect childhood disorders early, including autism, according to Aidex, the website for the Brussels-based event where the award will be presented to the winner.
The nominee has also supervised the training of over 650 health professionals for the health ministry’s initiative.
Odeh said if for her to win - as a Palestinian - would carry a “symbolic” meaning.
“To work under very difficult circumstances, under military occupation, and serve the most underserved children and succeed in getting such recognition by itself is a real victory for each and every child - and for Palestine,” she told Al Arabiya News.
The need to help children with special needs and learning difficulties is a considerable one, according to Odeh.
“The lack of reliable national data on disability among Palestinians is an indication of the extent of marginalization of disabled people,” she said, noting that the key to helping special needs children is through educational and medical intervention.
The winner will be announced on Nov. 13 at the AidEx event in Brussels.
Voting for the nominees has now closed.
Of the four nominees, the candidate who receives the largest amount of votes from internet users will win the award.