Empowerment Programs Model
ETI’s Empowerment Programs operate solely in regions where most young people with disabilities are severely marginalized due to societal and cultural stigma. Our goal is to enable youth to believe in themselves and their ability to contribute—taking children who have never been exposed to mainstream society and propelling them into full inclusion with other children and with their communities. We achieve this through several distinct programs in north, central, and south Lebanon.
ETI’s programming cycle begins with The Life Skill Program, which is a two-part training that occurs before ETI’s summer camp and throughout the year. This program provides ongoing support, teaching classes in mobility and orientation, independent life skills (such as cooking and banking), and technology. This program is designed to build confidence in children with visual impairments, so that they can go on to participate in Camp Rafiqi.
In order for children take their newly acquired skills into an integrative setting, ETI has created Camp Rafiqi, a two-week summer program where children with visual impairments and sighted children are integrated in a recreational camp. This program is essential in revolutionizing the mindset of both populations. The recreational aspect of Camp Rafiqi plants the seed of confidence in the children, who then go on to contribute to their communities in the next program. At Camp Rafiqi, children play and have fun, but also start to believe that they have a right to exist in society, and that they have potential.
The Social Project Program exists to actualize the seed of hope planted at Camp Rafiqi. The Social Project Program is a three-to-six-month program that builds on the philosophy created in the Life Skills Program and at Camp Rafiqi. In the Social Project Program, both blind and sighted youth carry out community service projects through collaborations with local organizations. This is monumental because, for many children with vision impairments, it is their first time going out in society without being helped by family members or guardians, and it is their first time on the giving instead of receiving end. Witnessing these children performing acts of community service allows fellow citizens to realize that they are like anyone else, and are not a charity to be pitied and patronized—helping to break the stigma of disability for both groups.
The Parents Workshop consists of a four-day summer program that focuses on broadening awareness within the local community about empowerment and integration of blind youth. It includes parents of visually impaired children and members of the overall community. During this workshop, participants become aware of their conscious and unconscious cultural understandings of disabilities, as well as of the social barriers that may challenge the empowerment and integration of blind youth. In addition, the workshop provides participants with the knowledge and resources to assist them in supporting their children before, during, and after the Life Skills Program and Camp Rafiqi.
Involving the community and ETI’s partners
In addition to providing youth programs, ETI believes it is essential that the community be engaged in our work. The Community Celebration concluding the program cycle allows ETI participants to present their accomplishments from the past year to the rest of society, including local government, NGOs, the education sector, and the private sector. This serves to stir up interest by community members in ETI’s programs, and allows fellow citizens to witness firsthand ETI’s impact on these children. It is our hope that the Community Celebration inspires community members to make their spaces inclusive to people of all abilities.
ETI University Clubs help ETI engage academic institutions as partners in empowerment. University clubs are extracurricular organizations established at universities throughout the region that embody ETI’s mission and aid in building strong partnerships with the universities, while also initiating advocacy efforts. In addition, many of the club members serve as volunteers for the programs. Because students have a lot of influence on fellow university members—including faculty, staff and other students—their participation in ETI university clubs can help change the narrative of disability, thereby helping to make change in the rest of society.
If you are interested in starting a university club, please contact Anna Barbosa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Empowerment Programs’ Impact and Scale
Thus far, our Empowerment programs have reached over 2,500 individuals, including youth with visual impairments and sighted youth, their parents, families, university students, volunteers, trainers, and partner organizations.