Sara Minkara, a born and raised Bostonian, has tackled a very important unmet need. Sara lost her vision at age 7, but was fortunate to be surrounded by supportive family, friends, and technical services. It was only when she traveled to Lebanon on a family visit that she noticed a disparity of services for blind individuals, and felt disabled for the first time. Due to the stigma associated with blindness, Sara realized that there were “invisible children” who didn’t have the same opportunities that she had growing up.
It was experiences like these that led her to launch ETI – Empowerment Through Integration. Based in the U.S., ETI currently runs projects in Lebanon and Nicaragua. ETI offers a variety of programs, including Camp Rafiqi, a 2-4 week summer program built around blind and sighted kids. Camp Rafiqi helps to change the narrative around blindness, move away from the stigma, and encourage all the students to return to their communities and do volunteer work.
ETI also hosts an annual Dining in the Dark Gala in December, which challenges participants to share a meal, blindfolded. The underlying purpose of Dining in the Dark is that it places individuals in a vulnerable position—dining as a blind person—in order to separate them from superficial labels and barriers.
We recently had the chance to learn more from Sara about her philanthropic motivations, through and beyond ETI.
CAAP: Can you tell us a little more about your interests when it comes to giving back?
Sara Minkara: My focus right now is on serving marginalized youth through ETI. I also travel to different mosques around the country to speak about disability in Islam – in this way I work to make Muslim spaces more inclusive.
CAAP: What/who are your giving inspirations?
SM: A big inspiration is my mom. She made me stubborn, and helped me develop a mindset of continuous learning.
CAAP: What does the word “philanthropist” mean to you?
SM: A philanthropist provides something to society that’s needed. Philanthropists are innovators.
CAAP: Do you have advice to give other Arab Americans when they want to take on a new project?
SM: If you’re hesitant, you can find so many people out there who will help you. You can’t do it by yourself, it’s a team effort. With time, and the right team, your project will grow bigger than the idea itself.
Thanks to Sara Minkara for giving us a new perspective on integration for disabled individuals, and for all she does to make our world a little brighter! For more information on ETI and Sara’s inspiration behind founding it, watch this video. For any other questions or comments, Sara Minkara can be reached at email@example.com.
Read more from our Arab Americans Who Care series.