Syrian woman with cerebral palsy gives back to Calgary community that supported her dreams

A woman living with cerebral palsy made the bold decision to move halfway across the world despite her disability. In Part 1 of Ready, Willing, and Abled, Tracy Nagai looks at how it transformed her life. Global News

By Tracy Nagai, Global News March 13, 2017

Ruba Zoughaib has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to get around. She never dreamed of swimming until she moved to Calgary from Syria five years ago due to accessibility issues.

“We started her off in a life-jacket, which was rather uncomfortable for Ruba and would ride up around her neck,” explained Cyndi Ellis, Zoughaib’s support worker. “So I came up with the noodle idea and she uses her core strength to keep herself upright.”

Rigging a pool noodle around Zoughaib’s waist is one of many modifications made in order to make the 42-year-old’s swimming lessons at the Vecova Recreation Centre a reality.

“She was so eager to learn and she’s just gotten stronger and stronger. She’s gone from taking 14 minutes to get up and down the pool to being able to do it in under four,” Ellis said.

Zoughaib’s sister has been caring for her since she moved to Calgary but hasn’t been doing it alone.

The Developmental Disabilities Resource Centre of Calgary (DDRC) met Zoughaib three years ago. She was unable to speak English but the DDRC was determined to help her.

“The DDRC mainly hired me for Ruba. There were challenges communicating with Ruba so they had a goal to hire someone who could speak Ruba’s language,” explained Wissam Shalaby, Zoughaib’s support worker and translator.

The pair now meet three times a week, allowing them to find different ways to communicate with each other.

“She has some speech difficulties, even in her own language, but she uses body language and sometimes she’ll try to describe a word,” Shalaby said.

The support allows Zoughaib to give back to the community: for the last three years, she’s been volunteering for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Alberta.

The opportunity has provided Zoughaib with the skills to learn how to use a computer and she’s become a valued member of the team.

“Without Ruba and volunteers like Ruba, our organization would not exist. On a completely personal level, she’s an amazing friend for us, too,” said Sarah Stephens with the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

For Zoughaib, the difficult decision to move halfway across the world has made all the difference.

“Her life is totally different now because she’s learning,” Shalaby said. “She feels like she’s reborn again.”

Source Global News

Also see
Part 2: Ready, Willing, and Abled – 9-year-old faced with crippling disease stays positive with support: ‘I’m really tough’ in Global News
Part 3: Ready, Willing, and Abled – Calgary student flourishes in university despite cerebral palsy, epilepsy diagnoses in Global News
Mother with cerebral palsy dispels myths about parenting with a disability in Global News
Lethbridge boy with cerebral palsy doesn’t speak in sentences, but still sings in Global News

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