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GOOD PEOPLE GOOD WORKS Al-Manarah: Nazareth’s Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired - P2/2 (In Arabic)    
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Today’s Good People, Good Works will be presented in Arabic and English, with subtitles in Arabic, Aulacese (Vietnamese), Chinese, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Mongolian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Thai.

In addition to training, we also arrange summer camps for blind school children because we do believe that children have equal rights to enjoy all activities.

Welcome, cordial viewers, to this week’s edition of Good People, Good Works, the conclusion of a two-part series featuring the Nazareth-based non-profit organization Al-Manarah – Association for the Advancement of persons with disabilities in the Arab Society in Israel or “Al-Manarah” for short.

Al-Manarah provides assistance to approximately 6,000 blind and visually impaired Arabs living in Israel. Founded in 2005 by Abbass Abbass, who currently serves as the group’s director, Al-Manarah’s mission is to encourage clients to integrate themselves into the community, know their rights and gain access to governmental resources and services.

Last week, we learned about some of Al-Manarah’s laudable initiatives such as its phone-assistance line for the blind. This week we’ll learn of other ways Al-Manarah builds constructive environments for the people it serves so these individuals can thrive and contribute further to society. But first, let’s hear from Mahmoud Khatib, Coordinator of Empowerment and Developing Skills for Al-Manarah, about what makes this organization unique.

The Al-Manarah Association is almost the only and the first of its kind in the community. It considers people with visual impairments as persons who have real capabilities. And it started working with them on the issue of rehabilitation and the acquisition of skills for involving themselves in the community. The majority of the institutions and sectors pay more attention to material assistance (to them) than the awareness and psychological and cultural aspects.

For developing a person and making him integrate, I need above all to build him internally by strengthening his character and enhancing his capabilities. In my opinion, this is what Al-Manarah Association works on; that is, self-strengthening and self-developing so the blind and the ones with visual impairment achieve independence in spite of disability. By independence, one can accomplish and achieve his objectives.

To help the blind and visually impaired gain confidence in themselves, Al-Manarah incorporates the instructional methods of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, an approach to psychotherapy that promotes constructive thinking.

And I want to clarify that all the training and all the workshops are based in what we call NLP methodology. NLP means Neuro-Linguistic Programming, which is positive psychology. This means that despite the disabilities, you have all the time to be optimistic. You have all the time to find the energies to awaken the giant within. We do believe that everyone, even though he is disabled or has a disability, has a giant within.

But he has to awaken this giant. He has to believe in his abilities, he has to be persistent. He has to be, over time, full of energy to proceed. All people have obstacles in their way. But they have to overcome all the obstacles and have the power to overcome all these obstacles.

Positive psychology means that all the time you have to look at the full side of the cup. You don’t have to say, “Oh, I am disabled, I am weak, I can’t do anything, I can’t see, I have many problems.” No, you have to say, “Okay, I am visually disabled, but I have the energies. I have to challenge myself. I have all the time to improve my education, to improve my skills to be an equal member (of society).” And we do believe that your behavior depends on your feelings. If you feel that you are good, you’ll be good. If you feel positively, you’ll be positive.

To help visually impaired children better merge into schools and communities, Al-Manarah leads school workshops that teaches sighted students about connecting with those with special needs.

So for the community, we have established a wonderful project called, “Social Raising Awareness.” The Social Raising Awareness project includes conducting hundreds of workshops for students titled, "Accepting the Different Other." Within the workshops, we expose regular students to the world of the visually disabled through, first of all, theoretical activities and through practical activities.

For example, we start a discussion on how they relate when they meet a person with a visual disability. So after we hear from them, we give them guidance, the good ways to relate to people with visual disabilities. On the practical part, for example, we show them the blind cane and how it is a means (to get around). After that, we show them the equipment; for example, the cell phone, the computer, the Braille book, in order to let them see that we are bit different but we have many things in common.

We are feeling, we are dreaming, we are loving, we are studying, we have many, many things in common. So you should accept us as active members (of society), and you should change your attitudes.

Al-Manarah also endeavors to help parents better understand their visually impaired children.

In addition to the school workshop, we conduct many seminars for parents and for professionals. For parents, we conduct seminars in order to change the attitude of the parents of people with visual disabilities toward their children.

Because many parents or most of the parents relate to their children on one hand, in what we call an overprotective manner, and on the other hand, in a negligent manner because they don't accept them or they want to overprotect them because they do believe that they are weak, they are helpless, so they have to protect them.

So we teach them, within our seminars, we give them means of good socialization for their children, how to believe in their children, how to give them the power, to raise them in an independent manner, and how also to let them enjoy their rights and the services, that, for example, the state offers for them, and also expose the parents to the technologies that they can give to their kids, such as the computer, many technologies such as voice-driven computers, the Braille display, the magnifier, and all the machines that can help their children to get the best education.

Putting parents of special needs children, especially mothers, into discussion groups helps them in child-raising. Mahmoud Khatib now tell us more.

For example, the Association of Al-Manarah established an empowerment and skills developing group for mothers of children with visual impairment. Through this group, mothers raise the matter of disability in full, since they knew that their son or daughter was born blind, (went) up to school and the university and how they got through all these stages in addition to the challenges and difficulties they faced.

All these issues are discussed in the group, and the group is considered as an outlet to express their maternal feelings. In such a group, for example, as the mothers’ group, the common ground between them is that they are mothers of children with visual impairment, so then the mother feels that she is not alone in this situation, but there are others.

That is, it is possible to speak about our problems, it is possible to speak about our pain, it is possible to speak about our concerns. This (discussion) may relieve pain and provide support, especially when they are accompanied by a professional who has experience and all the skills that qualify him to be able to deal with such conditions, with mothers who have children with visual impairment.

Al-Manarah also has other ways to help prepare community members to work with the blind and visually impaired and appreciate this population’s many abilities.

In addition to the seminars for the parents, we conduct seminars for the professionals, such as social workers and teachers. And in these seminars we also expose them to what we call “human-dignity relation,” how they should relate to the students and to their clients in a human-dignity manner, full of respect, not just as people in need who want services, but first of all, you have to respect them. In addition, we distribute flyers and magazines within the seminars.

So Al-Manarah has established a very wonderful flyer called, "Be Kind to the Blind," in which we give some instructions how to relate to a blind or visually impaired person when you meet them; for example, if you meet a blind person in the street, how you could guide them in a very respectful manner.

In addition, we established a wonderful magazine, called “Manarat.” Manarat means plural of Manarah (lighthouse). Because we do believe that every article in the magazine is a lighthouse in the world for people with visual disabilities. Manarat magazine includes success stories about people with visual impairment; in addition, educational articles, and it also covers several activities. And fortunately, we have many activities every year.

In closing, let’s again hear from Abbass Abbass, who has messages for both sighted and visually impaired people.

First of all, I have a message to the whole world, to the sighted people. Please, be more tolerant, love each other. Please respect each other. And please accept the different others. We don’t have to be in common in everything. We can be in common in some fields, but it’s okay for us if we are different.

Please accept the different others so that the nations understand each other. And for the people with visual disabilities, please, you have to first of all accept your disabilities, you have to feel it. You have to feel positive with your disabilities. You are not responsible for your disabilities, so you have to understand it and to think that despite that you are disabled, you have many, many abilities, you have other senses.

You have to develop what we call alternative skills. Despite (the fact) you don’t see, but you hear very well, you smell very well, and you touch very well. So you have to use them and use them perfectly. So please be optimistic, be positive. To be blind, if you’re satisfied with your blindness, it’s a great gift.

Thank you, Abbass Abbass and Mahmoud Khatib and all the other staff members and volunteers of Al-Manarah for your loving assistance to the blind and visually impaired in your community. May the group’s accomplishments and ongoing efforts continue to bring smiles to the faces of those with special visual needs.

For more information on Al-Manarah, please visit www.AlManarah.org

Blessed viewers, thank you for joining us on this episode of Good People, Good Works. May we always cherish all the beauty and goodness in our world.
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