Benhaffaf twins launch ‘Angels’ campaign with Keith Duffy

Irish Wheelchair Association begins annual fundraising campaign

Boyzone and Coronation Street Star Keith Duffy and the former conjoined twins Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf launch the Irish Wheelchair Association's national ‘Angels’ campaign. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

It’s not every day you meet a superhero but when Keith Duffy co-launched the annual Angels Campaign for the Irish Wheelchair Association he had the pleasure of meeting two.

The real stars of the day were the formerly conjoined twins Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf who were kitted out in matching Superman outfits to launch the organisation’s annual fundraising campaign.

The four-year-old twins, who are currently attending preschool with the support of special needs assistants, had obviously made an impression on the Boyzone and Coronation Street star.

“They’d blow you away these two guys,” Mr Duffy said. “They’ve only got one leg and my God, you can’t catch them...they’re brilliant, absolutely brilliant”.

The twins are just as their mother, Angie Benhaffaf described them, “two happy mischievous funny little guys”.

But behind the smiles the family faces ongoing challenges: “Nobody sees the pain and hard work of the day-to-day,” she said.

Hassan, who has “half a pelvis and a half a chest” requires special surgery on his spine for severe congenital scoliosis every six months and will continue to receive surgery until he is 16.

“You think that, because you hand your child over so much for surgery that it will get easier...but every time for me is like the first time,” she said, adding that the frequency of the surgery means the family are apart for weeks on end each year.

“Emotionally it does take its toll but...we somehow manage to keep it all afloat,” Ms Benhaffaf said.

She said the importance of the support the family receives from the Irish Wheelchair Association was “huge”.

The special needs assistants provided by the association mean the boys can attend pre-school with a helping hand while still retaining their own independence.

This, according to the chief exeuctive of the association, Kathleen McLoughlin, is at the heart of what it does: “We just want people to be able to participate in the same way as everyone else,” she said.

She said the organisation continues to receive “tremendous support” from the Government “but sadly it’s never enough” adding that the annual fundraising campaign was “critical” for the organisation to continue to fund services.

Despite a 15 per cent cut in Government funding and staff reductions since 2008 the organisation “hasn’t cut one hour of services” however, it has been impacted in other ways.

“We have 120 buses on the road: at this stage more than 80 per cent of those buses are over 10 years old because we’ve used our resources to keep the services going.”

“We’re really trying to make this a very successful Angels campaign because we really need the money,” she said.

The campaign, which begins on Thursday, will see volunteers selling Angel products in locations around Ireland.

To find out more on other ways to contribute to the campaign go to iwa.ie/fundraising/angels.