He is young, he is unstoppable, he is impressive, and he is highly educated. The 28-year-old Joe Rahal has entered our history by being the first Lebanese Ministerial Advisor who uses a wheelchair.
For all who is, all that he represents, and all that he has achieved of challenging so far, Mr Joe Rahal was appointed to this position by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants, Mr Gebran Bassil. The aim? Improving the quality of life of people with special needs in Lebanon!
Founder of the Joe Rahal Foundation for the rights of the Lebanese people with disabilities, Mr Rahal has it all to accomplish that mission. With his positive attitude, his strong personality, his hands-on experiences, and his high education, Mr Rahal represents an excellent candidate for this national position.
He has already proven successful, since a very young age, in destroying all obstacles on his way to achieving his goals... against all odds.
His ambition is national wide, and he deems having only started, for most of his mission agenda is yet to come.
The961 had the amazing opportunity to speak to Mr Rahal about his background, his life, and his work. This is what he shared with us:
Tell us more about you and your condition
I was born in the 6th month of pregnancy. I got administered an overdose of oxygen due to medical malpractice, which caused paralysis in the movement centre of my brain. That’s how I'm on a wheelchair. I underwent 18 surgeries and got delayed three years in my education.
I managed to graduate from school, and now I have a BA in Political Sciences & International Affairs and a Masters in Strategic Negotiations & International Diplomacy. Currently, I am working on my PhD in Political Sciences.
Why did you choose this field of study?
I chose it because I believe it is a field that has the power to create a change in society. Every decision I took in my life since I was a child till now was in service to my goal. It has always been my objective to make the Lebanese society respect individuals with special needs or, as I like to call them, “People with Iron Will”.
How old were you when you decided you want to make a change?
I was 10 years old when I discovered my mission in life. I knew right away that this is a battle meant for me and, in order to win it, I will have to be totally reconciled with myself. I was very young when I clearly saw all my options and choices, and I knew the road was going to get harder the further I walk it.
Did you ever doubt yourself?
Of course, everyone does. But I did not let it affect me nor my journey. This issue is not only about me, but it also concerns a lot of people who are waiting for someone to depend on in order to make the change. I felt responsible not to let them down.
Tell us more about the Joe Rahal Foundation
It was founded in February 2017 by 5 members from different backgrounds and myself. It obtained its decree from the Ministry of Interior. The main mission of the foundation is to mobilize the society and gather the resources to contribute to the development and empowerment of the family and of the person presenting a physical impairment for a better quality of life.
How does being a ministerial advisor serve your purposes?
My mission is a socio-political issue. One way you can affect a social idea is by putting laws concerning it, and you can't do that without politics. The laws are written already but they are ignored. Once the law is practised and respected, the social issue only needs time to get resolved.
In 2001, Joe Rahal, a 10-year young boy back then, appeared to the public, sobbing in tears. Most local schools were rejecting him, refuting his rights to education for "not being able to walk" and for "being a slow learner". He did make it to university and, in 2010, his powerful message in this broadcasted interview reflected the "man with Iron Will" that he is: "Whatever you are enduring, never give up!"
The appointment of Joe Rahal is a major leap for Lebanon, a country that is taking an important step forward. Every Lebanese citizen is rooting for the 2019 cabinet. Keep your hopes high, Lebanon!
And thank you, Mr Joe Rahal, for being You!