In 1984 she felt compelled to open The Peace Center for the Blind, a school and vocational training center in East Jerusalem, for visually impaired Palestinian women. The goal of this non-profit organization has been to address the needs of the under-served blind women from Jerusalem and the West Bank. The resident students are taught basic literacy in Arabic and English, Braille, vocational skills, self care, and personal hygiene. Their communal boarding house environment helps nurture one-on-one mentoring relationships as well as the life skills of mobility, cooking, nutrition, and first-aid.
Ms. Lydia‘s dream was to provide not just a place to learn, but a place to belong. In the beginning, she went door to door asking for contributions and eventually raised $200 from friends and neighbors. With only 4 students, she opened the Peace Center for the Blind, which now has grown to full capacity at two separate facilities and assists over 50 women and girls at any given time. These women leave the Center empowered to live independent lives, and to act as a voice for equal rights for all those living with disabilities.
In the midst of all the political, religious and cultural divisiveness which dominates the region, the staff of the Peace Center for the Blind are working to promote tolerance and understanding. Ms. Lydia, who comes from a Palestinian Christian background, stresses that the center is a place of inter-faith education where Muslims and Christians can work and study together, with the stated goal of better integrating the students back into society. In the complicated civil society of Jerusalem, blindness is only one of many traits that can stigmatize and separate people and communities, and the Peace Center for the Blind is proving that many of these obstacles can be overcome.