|NIF Scholarship Enables Blind Woman to Fulfill Her Vision|
|Written by Ruby Ong|
"I have always dreamed of using my own emotional strength, which stems from the support I have had from my family, to help empower others with disabilities," said Hana Shalata.
Despite being blind from birth, the 31 year-old social activist from the Galilee Arab city of Sakhnin has a vision. Shalata was one of three recipients of this year's Yaffa London-Yaari Scholarship Award, which is awarded to Israeli women who are pioneering unique social aid programs. Thanks to the scholarship, she can now afford to implement her vision.
She said, "With the grant I want to develop an entrepreneurial training program. I think the most important thing for the self esteem of a person with disabilities, whether they have sensory deprivation or are confined to a wheelchair, is having a job."
For the past three years, she has served as Project Director of Al Mana (an Arabic term meaning 'giving a lot'), an organization which assists more than 400 people with disabilities in Sakhnin and the surrounding region. She heard about the scholarship from SHATIL, which provides Al Mana with organizational consultancy.
Shalata, who has an MA in Gerontology and a BA in Social Work and Education from Haifa University, credits her family with enabling her to overcome her disability. She said, "My parents have always believed in me and encouraged. Blindness is a family disease although both my parents are sighted. My role model has always been my eldest brother Mustapha, who is also blind and is a successful journalist."
She added, "At Al Mana, I like to feel that we have the ability to bring about a revolution in other people's lives. We are a social club, which reaches out to the community. We offer organized trips, workshops and tell people about their rights and entitlements as a result of their disabilities."
Shalata continued, "My biggest satisfaction is when I can turn somebody's life around. Recently I worked with a young woman who was badly injured in a car crash. She was depressed and refused to leave the house. But eventually we were able to rebuild her confidence and now she works as a volunteer at Al Mana helping others."
She said, "In the coming few weeks I will be using the scholarship to recruit coaches who can train people in such professions as cosmeticians. We will stress entrepreneurial skills for women because female employment in the Arab sector is a problem even amongst women without disabilities. Employment is the key to empowerment."