Muna Taher

Muna smiles after singing a popular Arabic song in music class

Muna was one of the most difficult students we’ve had,” Ms. Lydia reflected. “She is a completely different girl now.” Muna arrived at the center three years ago as a frustrated and frightened six-year-old girl. Whereas other kids her age were reading and writing, Muna was barely able to speak, lacked any social or self-care skills, and was severely undernourished. “She would bite and scratch and scream whenever she wanted something,” added Ms. Lydia. She and the other staff members worked diligently to help her develop socially, psychologically and academically. Today Muna talks, cares for herself, and is a cheerful and enthusiastic student. She has made significant progress in Arabic, math, science, music, and other extra-curricular classes. Muna says that she loves school and hopes to be a teacher herself one day.

Despite her difficult start at the Center, Muna, who is from the West Bank city of Nablus, now eagerly awaits the start of the school year and the chance to spend time with Ms. Lydia. “Sometimes at the boarding house she sits in my room at night and refuses to leave,” Ms. Lydia said with a laugh. “She’s very determined, much like me I suppose.”

Muna’s father, an accountant who has also been disabled from childhood, has had difficulty obtaining the necessary permits to visit his daughter in Jerusalem. He is extremely grateful, however, for the dramatic change the Center has brought about in his daughter. “I had polio when I was a child, but it didn’t stop me,” he explained. “I was educated and graduated from the university. This is what I want for Muna as well.” He remains optimistic that he will receive the necessary permits to visit Muna and witness her ongoing process of transformation first-hand.

Kareema Rayan

Kareema’s fingers fly over the knitting machine, skillfully programming patterns and resetting errant threads. The room’s dim lighting and her expressionless gaze towards the blank wall in front of her are the only reminders that these complex tasks are being performed without use of sight.

Kareema can only be described as a master knitter. She consistently produces high-quality machine-made and hand-knit garments to be sold by the Center. Despite Kareema’s full time work-load at the Center, she takes time to mentor younger students learning to hand-knit and use the complicated machines. But this hasn’t always been the case. When Kareema came to the center as a twelve-year-old in 1989 she didn’t know the first thing about knitting.

Kareema says she’s indebted to her knitting teacher, mentor, and fellow boarder, Samira, for teaching her to knit. Both Kareema and Samira have total sight loss, and this shared circumstance enabled Samira to teach Kareema in a way that met her unique needs. Kareema both lives and works at Center, sharing cleaning and cooking tasks with the other boarders. After more than 20 years working 5 days a week in the VTC, Kareema still enjoys knitting and patiently teaches others the skills she has learned from Sameera. Kareema says that what she loves most about knitting is that she is “able start from nothing and create something useful.”

Kareema knitting