Independent Enough
to Help Others

Youssef Hafyane used to have a lot of trouble speaking up for himself. He wouldn’t tell others what he wanted. He wouldn’t explain a problem when something bothered him. He would do whatever he could to please the people around him, even if it meant doing something he really didn’t want to.

Those days are mostly behind 22-year-old Youssef, who through his work with Damar’s behavior management services, has gained his voice, his independence and, along the way, a lot of self-confidence.

Youssef standing by a car Youssef is quick to provide a list of his achievements. “I work at Goodwill.” “I did three volunteer jobs.” “I graduated from IUPUI SITE” (Skills for Independence, Transition and Employment). “I lifted weights, I got stronger.” “I use the bus a lot.” It’s that last item that has impressed a lot of the people in Youssef’s life, one of whom referred to him as the “bus king.” Once he was taught the basics of using the bus, Youssef seized the resulting independence with gusto. “I learned the different number routes,” he says. “I use the maps.”

Youssef’s mom, Baha Hafy, says it was a little nerve-racking for her and her husband, Bouazza Hafyane, when Youssef first started using the bus by himself, but he has done well, and he knows what to do if he should get lost.

Youssef's Certificate of Completion Damar behavior therapist Michael Malone says Youssef’s mastery of the bus is a great example of the way the young man has flourished since he discovered self-advocacy. “A big step for him was speaking for himself.” Malone says. “He’ll say, ‘It’s my opinion …’ He says that a lot.”

It helps that Youssef loves to learn, his mom says, and he has soaked up the lessons Damar has provided over the more than five years Youssef has received services. He still occasionally has trouble managing his emotions, but those problems have diminished as he’s become more self-assured. “He is getting more responsible, getting independent,” Mom says.

Youssef’s family—which also includes an older sister and younger brother—has encouraged his growth. In fact, he and his brother live in their own townhouse—albeit, next door to his parents—Youssef goes to the store to get snacks on his own, takes walks and rides his bike, and, of course, rides the bus to various destinations.

But Youssef isn’t satisfied with his own successes. He likes to see others succeed, as well. Describing himself as a helper—a characteristic he says makes him good at his job at Goodwill, where he works three days a week—Youssef recently coached another Damar client on how to use the bus.

Youssef's Certificate of Achievement Youssef delights in this kind of skill sharing, Malone says, and, as a result, has been asked to speak to others and to serve as an example of success. “He’s just a beacon,” Malone says. “He’s a model client, and a model person in general.”

Ask Youssef how he became such a good example and he simply says, “I feel better about myself.”