Seeing With Their Hearts

PNN – Palestine News Network – 06.05.11 – 14:26

Gaza – ANERA TO PNN – “These children can see with their hearts. They feel things. They have a very powerful sense of touch. They ask very detailed questions. I admire their wonderful ability to describe things using their imagination,” said Ibtisam Marzouk, as she talked about 36 preschoolers joining the Friends Society of Visually Impaired Rehabilitation.

ImageThe colorful building, located in a peaceful neighborhood of Gaza City, is like a second home for the visually impaired children, most of whom come from poor families. “Each one needs special teaching and care,” said Director Marzouk. There are two classes for children, one for totally blind and one for the visually impaired.

The Society works with the 400 children who have graduated and gone on to other schools. “We explain to the teachers how to treat them, how to provide a friendly environment and how to assess their educational development.” said Ibtisam.

The 36 preschoolers receive services for free. Last year, the Society joined American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA) Milk for preschoolers program, which provided the preschoolers fortified milk and biscuits every day of the school term. The Society also was renovated through ANERA’s preschool rehabilitation program, which included new doors for the computer lab where the students learn to write in braille. ANERA also built stronger walls for the visual testing lab, and added a generator, water tank and lighting fixtures.

ImageIn the computer lab, Olfat Abu Ida was helping students Ahmed and Baraa work on their braille. Ahmed just finished the braille alphabet and was getting ready to read a book. Baraa was practicing writing using the Perkins braille typewriter. “Before the doors were put in, the computer lab was open to everything and we were distracted by all the sounds from outside. The lighting is better now too,” said Olfat, who has been working at the center since she graduated university 15 years ago. “I have five children in each session. And, I feel so proud when I see them learn to read and write. It opens up the world to them. It is very rewarding. ”

Friends Society of Visually Impaired Rehabilitation was established in 1995. The non-profit offers education, rehabilitation, social and medical services for visually impaired students. The society also provides parents with classes in braille. “I think it is very inspiring when parents can share reading a book with their children in their children’s language,” said Olfat. “It makes it all very special.”

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