An amputee at 15, Palestinian refugee climber is ready to scale new heights
Jarah Al Hawamdeh, 25, wants to scale all seven major summits by the end of next year
At the age of 15, Jarah Al Hawamdeh was found to have bone cancer, leaving him with two choices: give up or fight. He chose to fight.
In 2010, just months after the diagnosis, the Palestinian-Jordanian teenager had his leg amputated to prevent the cancer from spreading.
After suffering from deep bouts of insomnia during his rehabilitation phase, the self-proclaimed “lazy teen” made a pledge to take up mountaineering – a sport he had never tried before.
“I knew my situation was unique. I was young, defiant with a fierce appetite to turn my life into something good,” Mr Al Hawamdeh, now, told The National.
Being a young amputee from the Middle East who liked to climb mountains made me stand out. It was daring and dangerous.
Jarah Al Hawamdeh, mountaineer
“Being a young amputee from the Middle East who liked to climb mountains made me stand out. It was daring and dangerous.
“So I decided to use that attention to campaign for refugees and cancer patients.”
Two years later, at 17, he scaled his first peak, the Jabal Umm ad Dami in Jordan.
With an elevation of 1,854 metres, it is the highest mountain in the country. The feat earned him the title of the first Palestinian refugee climber with an artificial limb.
Ten years after the cancer diagnosis , Mr Al Hawamdeh, a certified mountaineer, has climbed some of the most iconic mountains in the world, including Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. He also reached the Mount Everest Base Camp in Nepal.
Speaking at the Middle East Youth Expo 2020 in Abu Dhabi, Mr Al Hawamdeh told his young audience to always “push the boundaries beyond the norm”.
“If I didn’t do that, if I just sat back and let cancer defeat me, my life would be very different,” he said.
“Not just mine, but the people I have helped along my journey too, the people displaced by conflict in the Middle East.”
One of six children born to Palestinian refugees in Jordan, he grew up listening to stories of how his grandparents fled their home in Palestine during the Nakba in the 1940s.
At that time, people were forced to flee to neighbouring countries and many never returned.
Deeply affected by their plight, it inspired him to fight for the rights of refugees.
“Not everyone has one leg so I decided to use my story to bring light to an issue that is still [affecting] generations, decades on.
“Over the years, I have realised that being fearless can achieve great things.”
Training up to two hours each day, from doing cardio workouts to swimming and weightlifting, Mr Al Hawamdeh said he is ready to push himself further.
“Usually, I climb about two big mountains each year. But in the next two years, by the end of 2021, I want to scale all seven major summits as well as trek to the North and South Pole.
“If I could do that, I could break the world record as the first man with one leg to do so.
“It would help me raise more funds to support the procurement of relief aid and medical intervention that refugees and cancer patients need.”
Mr Al Hawamdeh was one of 70 speakers from around the world to take part in the three-day Middle East Youth Expo 2020 in Abu Dhabi.
Through a number of interactive workshops and panel discussions, the event, which is taking place at the Mubadala Arena in Zayed Sports City, aims to empower youth delegates to achieve their goals and become future responsible global citizens.
Updated: February 4, 2020 02:22 PM