The mother of former conjoined twins has said a “lack of inclusive play centres” in Ireland is denying persons with disabilities a proper childhood.
Highlighting the issue, Cork mum Angie Benhaffaf described how the past eight years of her twin boys’ lives have been “a major challenge” following multiple surgeries and hospital appointments.
Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf underwent a 14-hour separation operation at London University Hospital in December 2009.
Since having survived the miracle surgery, they have undergone 45 operations between them, including a number of gruelling spinal surgeries.
Three years ago they started their first day at Educate Together National School, Midleton, and they continue to bravely battle the odds after doctors initially gave them little chance of survival.
“The last eight years have been a major challenge for all of us, but we will keep doing what we have to do to give our two little fighters as much normality and quality of life as we can possibly give them,” said Ms Benhaffaf.
“We want them to just be kids again, as they are denied so much because of all the operations, and total lack of inclusive play centres.”
The Benhaffaf boys, along with the rest of their family, including their sisters Iman and Malika, yesterday began three days of fun in the Mid-West, courtesy of the Share A Dream Foundation.
Their trip began at Dreamland Limerick, Ireland’s first fully accessible inclusive fun centre.
Shay Kinsella, owner and founder of the Share A Dream Foundation, said he organised the special event as it was the first time in eight years the twins were free from surgeries to fully enjoy themselves.
Identical Cork twins have marked the eighth anniversary of their separation with a special play date in Limerick. Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf from Cork began the first of three days’ celebration at the Share a Dream specially-adapted play centre. pic.twitter.com/IcT75P3I4G— RTÉ News (@rtenews) April 5, 2018
Ms Benhaffaf said her boys were thrilled to celebrate their “amazing milestone and miracle separation by visiting Dreamland”.
"Here we can let our children live the dream of being firemen, policemen, pilots, construction workers, doctors. They can also climb the tree of life, then whizz down the magic slide."
Mr Kinsella said Dreamland is “the kind of place you can only find in story books or a child’s wonderful imagination where all children regardless of ability or disability can role-play together with their siblings, friends and parents”.
“In Dreamland we only see ability and not disability,” he added.
The Benhaffaf twins later checked into the Savoy Hotel for an afternoon of pampering ahead of today’s trip to Shannon Airport, where they will assume joint roles as airport operation managers.
They will also learn about becoming a pilot, before some further pampering at the Park Inn hotel, Shannon and preparation for a “mega family party” in Dreamland tomorrow.
“Our sincere thanks to the Shannon Airport authorities, the Savoy Hotel Limerick, the Park Inn Shannon, and all the staff in Dreamland for reaching out a hand of love and friendship to two very brave young boys and their family who have suffered so much in their short but painful, traumatic young lives,” said Mr Kinsella.
“There are thousands of parents out there who face each day with this same challenge, to give their special children all the love and support they can to give them back their childhood and just let them enjoy life to the very best of their ability, and see their fondest dream come true,” he added.
Appealing for funds, Mr Kinsella said the Share A Dream Foundation relies on donations.
“Share A Dream rely totally on the community for funds so if you can help in any way please contact us,” he said.
To donate contact: email@example.com, www.shareadream.ie or 061-200080.
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