Blind Lebanese entrepreneur named in Forbes 30 under 30
Sara Minkara, who became legally blind when she was seven years old, has been recognised for her social enterprise, Empowerment Through Integration, in the business magazine's annual list of young social entrepreneurs.
When she was growing up in the US, Minkara received support to live with her disability through government and private organisations. But when visiting family in Lebanon she realised disabled children did not enjoy the same privileges.
The 27-year-old then founded ETI, which works with blind children in Lebanon to instill confidence in them, teaching life skills like how to walk with a white cane or how to use a computer. ETI also runs a summer camp for both blind and sighted children, community volunteering and seminars for parents.
"When I was seven I lost my vision and at that time, as a blind kid, there were technical challenges," Minkara, who was raised in Boston, told The Daily Star.
"But because I had a support system from my parents, my teachers and community, I was able to pursue a very integrated life and pursue my dreams. I never thought because I was blind I couldn't do anything."
Minkara's trips to Lebanon posed a challenge but gave her a taste of the difficulties that people with disabilities face there.
"That's when I thought that my blindness was something wrong because of a stigma, a narrative and how society perceives someone with a disability [in Lebanon]. I thought I was a burden on society," she said.
"You hear the words like 'Allah Yshfeke' [May God heal you] or 'ya haram' [expressing pity], but those are the basics."
Founding ETI was a response to the stigma Minkara sees surrounding visually impaired people.
"I had no plans ever to start a nonprofit, but then I did this project one summer with a friend where we brought together blind and sighted kids and focused on integration," Minkara said.
"And I saw the value of this and how it impacted the kids from both ends, this is when I felt that this is where my heart lies and this is how ETI got founded, from one project.
Making it to the Forbes list has given ETI a major boost, Minkara added. "It has been a blessing for ETI. I think it will open a lot of doors."