Feb 14: A group of men busily carves brooms out of blocks of wood, some measuring and cutting just like any other carpenter.
But this workshop in Occupied Jerusalem boasts a special team of carpenters: they are visually impaired.
Thirty-one-year old Ashraf Batash was born blind in the old city. His impairment has consequentially limited his job opportunities but a twist of fate gave him hope.
“I wasn’t working before, and my family did not know about organizations for blind people. Some people saw my mother on the street and suggested she send me to this organization through the social committee. I have been working here since.”
Batash is referring to the Arab Blind Organization. Established in 1932, the private workshop was relocated 20 years later from Hebron Gate area, to Via Dolorosa Street deep in the old city.
One of the board members, Abu Atta, who was blinded as a result of a childhood accident, says the organization has over 100 members, some of whom are affiliated to an institute in Bethlehem.
He says the workshop teaches members basic skills to enable them to earn a better living and not be on the streets.
Fouad Kandil is a testament to a new confidence which he says he gained from working and socializing in the area, where they all come to visit and pray.
The organizations sells the brooms in West Bank and Occupied Jerusalem markets, and believes the skills these men acquire allow them to integrate into society, in a region that normally stigmatizes disabled people.