Will you be my friend? A reflection on Camp Rafiqi 2019

In Arabic, Rafiqi means “my friend.” ETI was started 10 years ago; with the idea that bringing together children with and without disabilities in a fun and educational environment will create lasting authentic friendships, and an understanding of the importance of inclusion. 

This summer, ETI was so excited to celebrate our first decade of our inclusive summer camp and inaugural program, Camp Rafiqi, in Lebanon! Through Camp Rafiqi and all of our inclusive programs, ETI envisions a future where every child will be recognized for their talents and perspectives and the value each individual brings. Our entire curriculum is about understanding one’s self in human-centered design. We want to make sure that everyone feels like they have the agency to make change in their own communities, and empower themselves and others.

Multi-year returning ETI volunteer and teacher for Social Literacy at Life Skills and Social Entrepreneurship at Camp Rafiqi, Karim Itani, baked three cakes for our end of the summer celebration for #ETITurns10

Multi-year returning ETI volunteer and teacher for Social Literacy at Life Skills and Social Entrepreneurship at Camp Rafiqi, Karim Itani, baked three cakes for our end of the summer celebration for #ETITurns10

This summer, Camp Rafiqi had 40 participants from ages 11-18 representing a diverse variety of communities in Lebanon. We offered the following inclusive classes developed to support mind, body, and, soul of all participants:

·      Social entrepreneurship: encouraging positive contribution to communities

·      STEM: supporting and encouraging creativity of the mind through STEM activities

·      Improv and storytelling: understanding one’s self and their own voice

·      Fitness & Recreation: supporting a positive body image and understanding of your body through fun activities

Thank you to everyone who has supported ETI for the past 10 years! We're so excited to continue building an inclusive future together! 

 The ETI Family

image description: Three smiling women hold balloons that spell “ETI”

image description: Three smiling women hold balloons that spell “ETI”

30 reasons to donate to ETI

ETI CEO and Founder turned 30 over the weekend. When we asked her what she wanted for her birthday, we only got one answer: “Support for ETI”! To keep the party going we wanted to share 30 words that describe why you should support ETI’s work. Donate here if you’ve read the list and want to join Sara and ETI in creating a more #inclusive world for all!

Here are 30 words that describe why you should donate to ETI:

  1. Friendship

A man and a woman face the camera, smiling as they embrace each other.

A man and a woman face the camera, smiling as they embrace each other.

2. Connection

3. Empowerment

4. Integration

Two young women sit at desk that face the camera. One is in profile, wearing a green shirt and long pants. The girl who is looking at (on her left) wears dark sunglasses, a white shirt, and blue jeans.

Two young women sit at desk that face the camera. One is in profile, wearing a green shirt and long pants. The girl who is looking at (on her left) wears dark sunglasses, a white shirt, and blue jeans.

5. Awareness

6. Smiles

A young girl with a brown ponytail wears a white t-shirt with the ETI logo in the upper left-hand corner. Only the letter “e” is completely visible as the girl is wearing a turquoise lanyard. She has her left arm stretch around the next of a woman in a white hajib and bright yellow shirt. Both woman and child are smiling

A young girl with a brown ponytail wears a white t-shirt with the ETI logo in the upper left-hand corner. Only the letter “e” is completely visible as the girl is wearing a turquoise lanyard. She has her left arm stretch around the next of a woman in a white hajib and bright yellow shirt. Both woman and child are smiling

7. Leadership

A man and a woman sit at a light brown table, both staring at the screen of a silver laptop. Both are wearing black t-shirts with the ETI logo in the upper-left corner. The logo is a solid white circle with the letters “ETI” in black cursive text.

A man and a woman sit at a light brown table, both staring at the screen of a silver laptop. Both are wearing black t-shirts with the ETI logo in the upper-left corner. The logo is a solid white circle with the letters “ETI” in black cursive text.

8. Authenticity

9. Belonging

10. Happiness

A child in bright purple eyeglasses smiles enthusiastically at the camera with their chin on their hands. The child is sitting at a wooden table with some pretzel sticks in front of them.

A child in bright purple eyeglasses smiles enthusiastically at the camera with their chin on their hands. The child is sitting at a wooden table with some pretzel sticks in front of them.

11. Love

12. Value

13. Potential

A young man walks up a flight of stairs. He smiles at the camera as he holds his white can in his left hand. He holds it straight up: gripping the handle in a fist. The red tip is visible at the bottom of the photo. The young man wears a black lanyard with a white name-tag around his neck. There are also a a pair of white headphones that are draped around his neck.

A young man walks up a flight of stairs. He smiles at the camera as he holds his white can in his left hand. He holds it straight up: gripping the handle in a fist. The red tip is visible at the bottom of the photo. The young man wears a black lanyard with a white name-tag around his neck. There are also a a pair of white headphones that are draped around his neck.

14. Vision

15. Inclusion

Three volunteers in back t-shirts smile at the camera. A participant in a green shirt and red glasses smiles with them in a group photo.

Three volunteers in back t-shirts smile at the camera. A participant in a green shirt and red glasses smiles with them in a group photo.

16. Fulfillment

17. Diversity

18. Dreams

19. Vulnerability

A man in a black t-shirt faces the camera. A young boy sits facing him at a small table. The man facing the camera reaches out to cup the side of the young boy’s face.

A man in a black t-shirt faces the camera. A young boy sits facing him at a small table. The man facing the camera reaches out to cup the side of the young boy’s face.

20. Compassion

We see the backs of two girls holding hands. Each girl wears her hair in a ponytail. Each is wearing a white t-shirt with the a solid black circle and the letters “ETI” in white cursive in the middle. Below this are the worlds “Empowerment Through Integration”

We see the backs of two girls holding hands. Each girl wears her hair in a ponytail. Each is wearing a white t-shirt with the a solid black circle and the letters “ETI” in white cursive in the middle. Below this are the worlds “Empowerment Through Integration”

21. Curiosity

22. Collaboration

Children and adults sit on a tile flood in a circle. Visible to the camera are two people, as we see the backs if everyone else. The volunteer (wearing a black t-shirt and blue jeans) and participant (wearing a white t-shirt and blue jeans) can be seen working with long wooden dowels.

Children and adults sit on a tile flood in a circle. Visible to the camera are two people, as we see the backs if everyone else. The volunteer (wearing a black t-shirt and blue jeans) and participant (wearing a white t-shirt and blue jeans) can be seen working with long wooden dowels.

23. Teamwork

A large group of people in black t-shirts are grouped in front of the camera, smiling and holding white pieces of paper with blue borders.

A large group of people in black t-shirts are grouped in front of the camera, smiling and holding white pieces of paper with blue borders.

24. Passion

25. Power

26. Positivity

A boy with red glasses holds two thumbs up. He has black hair and is wearing a green tank top.

A boy with red glasses holds two thumbs up. He has black hair and is wearing a green tank top.

27. Purpose

28. Education

Two boys sit next to each other around a square desk. The boy facing directly to the camera wears a white t-shirt with blur horizontal stripe. The other, in profile to the camera, wears a blue t-shirt. Both are wearing bright orange lanyards and looking at a long wooden down that the boy on the left holds up vertically.

Two boys sit next to each other around a square desk. The boy facing directly to the camera wears a white t-shirt with blur horizontal stripe. The other, in profile to the camera, wears a blue t-shirt. Both are wearing bright orange lanyards and looking at a long wooden down that the boy on the left holds up vertically.

29. Transformation
30. Freedom

Two young girls face the camera, smiling. In the background, other children are talking and playing.

Two young girls face the camera, smiling. In the background, other children are talking and playing.

30 interesting facts about Sara Minkara

Today is our Founder and CEO Sara Minkara’s 30th birthday. We wanted to share 30 interesting facts about her. Join us in wishing her a happy birthday!

A woman smiles directly at the camera. She is wearing a black dress suit and tan hijab. Behind her to the right sits a large green plant that is not in focus.

A woman smiles directly at the camera. She is wearing a black dress suit and tan hijab. Behind her to the right sits a large green plant that is not in focus.

A man and a woman walk on a rocky path. The woman holds a white can and is smiling.

A man and a woman walk on a rocky path. The woman holds a white can and is smiling.

1. I love to eat chicken

2. I love the breeze when I put my head outside the window when I'm in the car, especially in the mountains in Lebanon!

3. My favorite color is green, and I used to eat anything green as a kid

A close up image shows a woman smiling at the camera, wearing a silver helmet and with straps and clips covering her chest. Behind her we see the hand of a guide controlling levers. The background is a beautiful valley.

A close up image shows a woman smiling at the camera, wearing a silver helmet and with straps and clips covering her chest. Behind her we see the hand of a guide controlling levers. The background is a beautiful valley.

4. I love being in nature

5. I have gone paragliding in Lebanon

6. I slid down a volcano in Nicaragua

7. I swam with and touched sharks in Belize

8. I went tandem bicycling through a jungle in Bali

9. I love numbers and math, and do math problems in my head to relax

Two women and a man stand in front of a sign that reads “ETI” All three are smiling brightly. The woman in the middle holds a bright bouquet of flowers, The vibrant flowers illustrate the affection and pride that Sara’s family has for her.

Two women and a man stand in front of a sign that reads “ETI” All three are smiling brightly. The woman in the middle holds a bright bouquet of flowers, The vibrant flowers illustrate the affection and pride that Sara’s family has for her.

10. I love horses

11. I love swinging

12. I love being near the water

13. I love mountains

14. I love my work, and am a workaholic

15. I love reading, some of my favorite books are: All the Light We Cannot See, Man's Search For Meaning

16. I'm very close to my family

17. I love meeting new people

A woman looks out over a rocky valley. She wears a colorful blue jacket with pink and blur flowers.

A woman looks out over a rocky valley. She wears a colorful blue jacket with pink and blur flowers.

18. I love hugs!

19. I love coffee

20. I'm an introvert

21. I grew up on the South Shore of MA

22. I have been to 33 countries

23. I love amusement parks

24. I have a passion for learning geography

25. I have no spleen

26. I listen to my phone voiceover at the highest speed

27. I had many nicknames growing up: Susu, Sarsura, Sasa, Sasu, Fasfous

28. I meet a lot of people when I accidentally hit them with my cane

29. I believe that everyone has something beautiful to offer and contribute in the world

30. I never planned to start a nonprofit, but it has given me so much purpose in my life. I have made so many connections that have taught me infinite lessons. I have had new experiences and opportunities to explore the world; all of which exposed me to new communities and cultures.

Make Sara’s birthday wish come true and donate to ETI today!

A group of men and women stand facing the camera smiling. The group hold balloons that spell “ETI”

A group of men and women stand facing the camera smiling. The group hold balloons that spell “ETI”

Authentic Inclusion

At ETI, we believe that everyone has the right to actively participate in their community. We strive to ensure that every child feels like they belong and can bring their full selves forward, without fear of judgment. If a child feels that they have to change their behavior to fit in, we have not done our job to the best of our ability.

In this photo: Shown from the back, two girls hold hands during a team activity in ETI's summer Life Skills Intensive Program

In this photo: Shown from the back, two girls hold hands during a team activity in ETI's summer Life Skills Intensive Program

We believe in authentic inclusion; going a step above the human rights approach, establishing confidence in participants while breaking down barriers to inclusion.

What is the Human Rights-Based approach?

According to the United Nations Population Fund, the human rights-based approach focuses on the relationship between individuals and decision-makers.

How we disrupt the narrative

At ETI, we go a step above the human rights-based approach. We believe that everyone has basic human rights as an established right. With this understanding, we are able to focus on breaking down barriers to inclusion through our five empowerment and integration training programs.

Volunteer Spotlight: Remi Hamzeh

Remi Hamzeh, who volunteers as a life skills trainer, social literacy trainer, and paramedic, is our Volunteer Spotlight!

Outside of ETI, she is a clinical pathologist/psychologist.

In this photo: Remi Hamzeh

In this photo: Remi Hamzeh

How did you learn about ETI? 
Our doctor at uni, Dr. Chartouni, told us about it as a chance to have an internship. Then, the country director Anna Barbosa told us more about it.

Why did you decide to volunteer? 
It was a chance for me to discover something new. I'm already volunteering with special abilities since childhood but I haven't worked with blind kids before separately.

What has surprised you most about working with ETI? 
How real it is and how close you'd become while working with these kids, especially in the home visits. As well as the observation and the new things you'd see and analyze then.

In this photo: a quote from the text featuring Remi Hamzeh

In this photo: a quote from the text featuring Remi Hamzeh

What have you learned by volunteering with ETI? 
That the correct terminology is Persons with Disabilities and every need they have they improve an ability that makes them unique their own way. And that anyone can make something, we (humans) just need to support each other.

What is your biggest takeaway? 
That if we were the ones we needed when we were kids...everything will change around the globe.

What is the most memorable accomplishment of your volunteer experience? 
Making one of our participants fight for her dreams and keep going with her (hard conditions in university) although everyone else was telling her to quit.

What might someone be surprised to know about you? 
That I'm visually impaired too, and I wanted to know more about this world (blindness) for that I still have some light in my path and I want to make it wider - (especially that my visual impairment isn't diagnosed yet accurately).

What do you do when you aren't volunteering for ETI?

Volunteer with other organizations, work, and study (finishing my thesis).