Updates on Lebanon and Nicaragua

The end of the summer brings exciting news from the ETI team: in addition to preparations for the January camps in Lebanon and Nicaragua, we have been busy attending conferences, forging relationships with local and international partners and winning fellowships and prizes in film festivals!

Most recently, ETI has been working on re-opening the programs in Lebanon, which has been closed for several years due to the unstable political situation. Now, due to the influx of Syrian refugees, ETI has decided to re-open the camp to serve an even wider audience. In order to do this, ETI has spent the month of July re-establishing partnerships with local NGOs as well as forging new partnerships with both government and non-government local actors- including the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Al-Hariri Foundation, the Municipality of Tripoli as well as the American University in Beirut and Lebanese University. We hope to hire a country director by December 2015 and run both Camp Rafiqi and the Social Project program next summer.

While ETI forged the path for re-opening the Lebanon programs, we also spent July strengthening ties and developing a local team in Nicaragua.  Most notably the ETI team has fostered a fruitful relationship with David Lopez, the President of the Organización de Ciegos Nicaraguesnces de Marisela Toledo, a national organization of blind people. David has been an avid supporter of ETI’s work in Nicaragua and was enthusiastic about ETI’s desire to form an advisory committee made up of Nicaraguans. ETI has also developed ties with the Biblioteca Nacional de Luis Braille, a library for the blind in Managua. Previously, the library has helped us hold parent events and pilot programs. This July, the staff of the library helped us plan and host a seminar for parents of blind children. As a bonus, ETI was invited to attend a braille instructor certification program hosted by the Instituto Nacional de Technología (National Institute of Technology). 

Beyond establishing camps globally, five ETI team members attended, for the first time, the UN Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. At the conference, ETI benefited from establishing connections with other NGOs working internationally and locally. The ETI team hopes to attend the conference every year and to continue building partnerships with similar minded organizations from across the world.

Below is a picture of the United Nations Conference of State Parties that ETI attended:

Finally, ETI was fortunate enough to attend the 75th Anniversary of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Convention in July. Two of our members were able to attend different workshops and meetings discussing various national issues for the blind and visually impaired community. During this convention, ETI was also a part of the breaking of the Guinness World Record for the largest umbrella mosaic. Below is an image of that world record:

Attending conferences and establishing camps globally would not be possible without the support of many private and public sponsors. We are especially to the Dubin family for their continued support of ETI. In addition, we have been awarded fellowships from Echoing Green, the Newman Foundation as well as the Halcyon Incubator Fellowship, which will allow us to expand our presence in the D.C. area and to benefit from the vibrant NGO community there. With these new fellowships and funding, ETI has begun hiring staff as well as begun brainstorming for expansion.

We are also excited to announce that ETI has been awarded the 1st prize in the Girls Impact Film Festival. This award is given to "videos that raise awareness about critical issues... around the world or [those that] propose solutions to critical challenges faced by women." Gloria Hong has been hard at work for over a year developing a short film detailing the history of ETI and Sara’s experience starting it. She, Sara, and Professor Joanna Lipper are pictured below: