Empowerment through Integration

Empowerment through Integration

LebanonWellesley, United States
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

ETI hosts free, local summer camps to help transition blind youths into becoming active and integrated members in developing countries.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Over 40 million people are completely blind, and at least another 135 million live with varying degree of visual impairments. Almost 90% of the visually impaired population lives in developing countries, where communities have neither the resources nor understanding to care for marginalized members. Even when family members and charitable organizations try to fill in the void, they often fail to empower the affected and, instead, allow misconceived stigma to confine disabled individuals to dependent roles. These circumstances negatively affect self-esteem, social status, and life expectancy.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We propose the following four approaches to empower visually-impaired individuals. First is to provide comprehensive training on overcoming disabilities related to blindness through the use of assistive devices to achieve greater independence with activities of daily living and, especially, in the pursuit of education. Second is to foster partnerships between blind and sighted youths, with the goal to increase awareness and rectify misconceptions of visual impairment. Third is to collaborate with companies to create internship positions that will integrate blind young adults into the workforce. Fourth is to engage and support advocacy activities for full inclusion and non-discriminatory behavior towards people with blindness on a local, regional and national level.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

We successfully hosted three Camp Rafiqi programs, which is a three-week summer sleepaway camp for youths aged 12 to 20 years, in Lebanon since the summer of 2009. Visually impaired youths were recruited from local schools and villages to attend the camp with all expenses paid. For every disabled attendee, two non-disabled youths were also invited. This unique camp composition achieved several goals. It allowed visually impaired participants to gather and share their experiences with each others. At the same time, they get a taste of integration into society, where they explore their abilities and techniques to overcome their limits in safe environment, and with the help of mainstream peers. Sighted participants also gained an intimate understanding of living with visual impairments and learned to be attuned to their new friends’ needs. Upon completion of the program, many attendees have naturally become local ambassadors for ETI. Our success with Camp Rafiqi program confirms the importance of building mutual understanding for full integration of visually impaired individuals into society.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Youth Association of the Blind (YAB) runs summer programs for blind children. However these programs are not integrated with sighted children, and do not provide science education. YAB focuses on training educators who will be able to accommodate students rather than on the students themselves. We focus on providing highly individualized attention to direct student growth. We are partnered with YAB to introduce new dimensions to the service landscape. This will allow us to grow in a complementary manner.
About You
Empowerment Through Integration
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Empowerment Through Integration

Organization Country

, MA, Wellesley, Norfolk County

Country where this project is creating social impact
Your role in Education

Coach, Resource Officer, Other.

The type of school(s) your solution is affiliated with


How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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How long has your solution been in operation?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Now that you have thought out your entry, help us pitch it.
Define your company, program, service, or product in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]

ETI empowers blind youths to partner with sighted individuals and become active, integrated members of their societies.

Identify what is innovative about your solution in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]

ETI aims to merge the visually impaired and sighted people by promoting mutual understanding of and adaptation to both worlds.

Social Impact
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.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Expand Camp Rafiqi program curriculum to better accommodate children from diverse backgrounds, and teach a greater set of skills

Task 2

Establish a local volunteer network system in Lebanon to implement and measure the effectiveness of the new curriculum.

Task 3

Raise funds for future Camp Rafiqi programs.

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

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Send representatives to Ghana to assess applicability of our model and identify unique challenges faced by blind youths locally.

Task 2

Develop partnerships with various organisations, institutions, and individuals to help ETI execute our integration model.

Task 3

Host information sessions and workshops to inform the public about our work and recruit children for 2013 Ghana camp program.

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

Tell us about your partnerships

We established relationships with various local disability organizations, schools and handicap union in Lebanon to recruit youths and volunteers for our camps since 2009. We have been partnering with local schools, government, Lebanon Minister of Education and small business to obtain use of facilities, funding, and food donations. We are now partnered with MIT research to derive a low-cost curriculum for blind youth and planning for a swimming program with Making Waves in Canada.

What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section? [75 words]

ETI will best benefit from a team of experienced staff working with a diverse pool of local volunteers, notably alumni’s of Camp Rafiqi programs. Staffs are responsible to keep ETI on track with its growth milestones. Volunteers will promote ETI’s causes and allow our programs to adapt to the changing needs of the community. Local investment in ETI’s mission is essential to ensure meaningful integration of the visually impaired population into society.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

Our idea is very unique and could easily be implemented in other countries for other marginalized populations. Our research and information can be used in schools.