ETI began as a summer project of founder Sara Minkara, who witnessed the often extreme ways that society marginalizes and undervalues children with disabilities. Then an undergraduate at Wellesley College, Sara launched ETI’s first program thanks to a Clinton Foundation grant in 2009. Today, ETI programs bring together both sighted and visually impaired youth in Beirut, Tripoli, and other parts of Lebanon; the students with visual impairments learn key, empowering life skills, and sighted participants experience a truly integrated environment and are exposed to peers with disabilities, often for the first time.
With this vision for an inclusive future—where individuals are empowered to openly embrace all of their identities in a society that embraces them in turn—ETI has since expanded to host a slate of programs that explore and explode societal approaches to empowerment, integration, and disability and other identities. Today, Camp Rafiqi and ETI’s other Empowerment Programs support individuals with disabilities to become catalysts for change in their own lives, their communities, and beyond—and they integrate sighted parents, peers, and community members along the way.
ETI’s Integration Programs are largely centered on our unique “In the Dark” events, which provide a safe space for participants to bring their true selves, with all their diverse identities, into an interactive conversation that examines the roots of stigma and societal assumptions on a personal level. Participants range from corporate employees to conference attendees to students at orientation, and programs are customized for every audience. Blindfolds eliminate visually cued expectations, ensuring participants can engage in deeper reflections and a facilitated discussion concerning their internalized biases. Together, they create opportunities for learning and growth and leave the event with a deep and practical understanding of how to better embrace diversity and inclusion in their work lives—and beyond.