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Open Your Eyes

Step out to support and develop the skills of the visually impaired in Bahrain with a unique initiative – The White Stick Project.

For those of us who tend to live in a world of our own, an evening with a visually impaired person can be an eye-opening experience. It was so for young Bahrainis, Rana Sehil and Yasmin Ibrahim, who drive The White Stick Project in Bahrain.
“There are many misconceptions about the blind that are shattered when you spend time with them. It’s wrong to think that they can’t accomplish tasks by themselves. They just do things differently,” says Rana.

“What fascinated me is how independent they are and the faith they have in themselves. They don’t want our pity or to be considered as people with disabilities. Rather, they’d like to be part of a society they can contribute to,” adds the 20-year-old, who is head of projects at AIESEC’s Bahrain chapter.

The white cane is acknowledged worldwide as a symbol of blindness. The day of observance called the White Stick Safety Day is marked on October 15 every year around the world.

In Bahrain, the White Stick project is part of AIESEC’s global community development programme that seeks to increase awareness on how to deal and interact with the visually impaired. According to Yasmin, the project has five focus areas.

These include providing assistive technology, interaction, personal development and public relations. Rana and her team organises workshops and create events that educate, engage and facilitate interaction. Over the last two years, AIESEC Bahrain has been raising money and volunteer support to meet the needs of the Friendship Society for the Blind.
“In addition to volunteer support, they need space for a bigger office, more IT infrastructure and financial backup. We’re trying to help with events that help awareness about these issues,” says Yasmin.

Their first event at Amwaj Islands last year taught visitors the usage of the Braille typewriter and showcased the software that the visually impaired utilise to operate computers. Visitors were exposed to a variety of educational equipment including the Braille typewriter, electronic magnifier and books printed in Braille. They had the chance to try and navigate their way blindfolded, using the white stick.

A walkathon in June this year invited people to walk for the cause or buy t-shirts and donate money for the cause. The group’s Blackout – Dinner in the Dark scheduled for late September will introduce over 100 participants to the experience of dining in darkness while using their other senses.

AIESEC is one of the largest student-run and not-for-profit organisations worldwide with a focus on cultural exchange and diversity. At the moment, AIESEC Bahrain is hosting eight international volunteers, who have helped organise events and train blind people in English language skills.

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