What has been the impact of your solution to date?
A majority of blind youths in Lebanon do not have canes and are confined at home because their parents feared social stigma. These children are completely dependent on their caregivers and unable to function in society. Since the start of our first Camp Rafiqi program in 2009, we have helped over 100 children become more independent. Our curriculum taught them to walk using a cane, shop for grocery, and even go mountaineering. Parents and witnesses are encouraged by these children’s achievements. The 200 sighted alumni from our camp are also helping to spread the words. One person at a time, we are changing Lebanese society’s perception of what visually impaired children can do.
What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?
We will expand our outreach in Lebanon to recruit blind children not currently enrolled in schools and those in remote villages. ETI will also begin to venture into Ghana and aim to replicate our success with Camp Rafiq program in Lebanon. We expect to directly help at least another 100 children become more independent. Our updated curriculum will include more comprehensive skills set. ETI will also partner with local schools to develop programs that may eventually integrate visually impaired children into the mainstream education system.
What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?
Working against societal norms is our hardest and most important challenge to overcome. We plan to overcome this by working with children whose views are still impressionable. We hope that by introducing sighted and non-sighted campers to an environment in which they are successfully, they will feel comfortable with the idea of working together instead of self-segregating.
Another issue we have is finding the right partners to work with. Collaboration amongst NGOs, while ideal, can sometimes cause tension and apprehension. We have already run into this problem and have found that it was important to identify other organizations that had the same attitude of serving the community that we have.
Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact
We will recruit more children across Lebanon for our Camp Rafiqi program and make the curriculum more comprehensive.
Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone
We will expand our presence and operations to Ghana, a country where almost 180,000 visually-impaired individuals are neglected
Founding Story: We want to hear about your "Aha!" moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution's potential to change the world [125 words]
Sara Minkara returns to Lebanon each summer, like many Lebanese-Americans. However, her summers there were rather atypical vacations. Her visual impairment was more prominent in the Lebanese society and even despite her strong educational successes in the US she was discouraged time and time again. The fact that she had sight problems however, only made her more determined to help others never lose hope of their vision. In the summer of 2009, after her sophomore year at Wellesley College, Minkara received funding from the College and the Clinton Global Initiative University Outstanding Commitment Award to start a summer camp that focused on integrating and empowering blind students in Lebanon. The camp was held in Tripoli, Lebanon and was a success! The overwhelming enthusiasm from both volunteers (Lebanese college students) and the campers (blind and sighted campers from Tripoli) led Minkara to continue her work through forming a nonprofit organization, Empowerment Through Integration