youth

New Horizons: Discovering Thailand

We are delighted to give you more good news on this White Cane Day! ETI is in the process of exploring the possibilities of expansion to Asia. To this end, Sara Minkara, our founder, and I, Ahsen Utku, traveled to Thailand in early October to discover the field. Needless to say, Thailand is an amazing country. It is now the rainy season, but still very hot (compared to Boston)! The tuk-tuk drivers, who are always way above the speed limit, made us re-define everything we knew about the culture of public transportation. 

People packed at the back of a "tuk-tuk" in traffic. Tuk-tuk is an essential part of the daily life in Bangkok.

People packed at the back of a "tuk-tuk" in traffic. Tuk-tuk is an essential part of the daily life in Bangkok.

We are also deeply thankful to have the best hosts ever: Hartanto, Aom, Ouan, Ot, Som, Not, and others. Their hospitality was at its peak, and now the idea that having Thai brothers and sisters at the other end of the world makes us very happy. 

Sara, Ahsen, our Thai hosts and two rows of Thai girl students who greeted us at the Wat Arun Temple.

Sara, Ahsen, our Thai hosts and two rows of Thai girl students who greeted us at the Wat Arun Temple.

However, as a part of our field research, we witnessed another sheer reality of Thailand, which is universally shared by every society: the blind people of Thailand. While we were busy with building strong relationships with the main players in Thailand with regard to blind and disability rights, we were also amazed by the fact that once given the chance, blind kids could achieve the highest goals, just like any other person with or without disabilities.  

Sara speaking with a blind literature teacher in the classroom 

Sara speaking with a blind literature teacher in the classroom 

Through our visit, we met the main players on the ground: educational institutions and schools serving the blind youth, foundations, human rights organizations, youth groups, blind professionals and activists. Meeting so many passionate and hardworking people and organizations dedicated to the empowerment of blind youth filled us with hope. We will soon have more exciting news of upcoming projects, so stay tuned!

Mr. Torpong Selanon, the President of Thailand Association of the Blind, presenting gifts to Sara. 

Mr. Torpong Selanon, the President of Thailand Association of the Blind, presenting gifts to Sara. 

Mr. Montian Buntan, former President of TAB, showing us aroung in the TAB building and introducing the TAB workers.

Mr. Montian Buntan, former President of TAB, showing us aroung in the TAB building and introducing the TAB workers.

Sara and Hartanto having a conversation with the officials of The Bangkok School for the Blind

Sara and Hartanto having a conversation with the officials of The Bangkok School for the Blind

Sara, Ahsen and the Amnesty International Thailand team in Bangkok.

Sara, Ahsen and the Amnesty International Thailand team in Bangkok.


Sara and the Mercy Center team in Bangkok. 

Sara and the Mercy Center team in Bangkok. 

ETI - Nicaragua

Hello all. It's been a very long time since we got to tackle this blog and update you on what we've been up to- apologies for that. But for this coming summer, I'll be committed to keeping this alive and helping you stay connected on our adventures!

Okay, a brief update is in need. As you may know, we've been doing our work in Lebanon for over the past three years. We've encountered some tremendous youth, worked with amazing volunteers, and have had the privilege of making an impact on many blind youths.

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Unfortunately, this summer, we are unable to return. The political instability has become increasingly dangerous, Syria's war continues to rage on, and our embassy has made it clear that they cannot offer help while we are there. Although we as leaders of ETI wanted to leave our safety aside and go back, the safety of campers and volunteers came into play. With hearts broken, we realized that returning this summer might do more harm than good.

 

But we didn't want to stay idle for this summer. We've never skipped a beat with our work and we aren't about to start now-- which is how we find ourselves today situated in the sunny cities of Nicaragua.

Nicaragua, the land of lakes and volcanoes and palm trees, although beautiful,  has gone through much devastation in the past two decades. They've gone through a revolution, a civil war, corrupt government, and natural disasters. This has developed intense distress throughout the land, leaving more than 50% below the poverty line and making it the second poorest country in Latin America. There are more than 30,000 documented people in Nicaragua that are blind, and much more that have not been recorded. Only about 30% of the youth here complete primary school, while barely 5% of disabled children receive adequate education.

We're here this summer to personally assess the situation of the blind youth here and see if ETI and our programs can be a good fit. The next couple of weeks will be filled with meeting after meeting- with universities, local NGO's, blind schools, government officials, and many locals.

We're excited. We woke up this morning to a blast of Central American sunlight and the music of all types of birds here. I'll leave you this morning with our view:

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