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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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New lives for the blind

One woman's dream brings hope to many in and around Jerusalem

Lydia Mansour’s hands don’t stop moving as she talks. Blinded at the age of 2 after a bout of measles, Mansour is the director and founder of the Peace Center for the Blind in Jerusalem. As she speaks about the center and its work, she prepares yarn tassels for shawls some of the students have crocheted. With surprising dexterity Mansour—who declined to reveal her age but admits to being 60 plus—quickly winds the burgundy yarn around a small board and then cuts through the accumulated bundle with a scissors.

Lydia Mansour, the director of  the
Lydia Mansour, the director of the Peace Center for the Blind, Jerusalem, knits baby clothing that will be sold to raise money for the school. The center provides vocational and academic studies to about 30 young women.
A graduate and former director of the Helen Keller School for the blind in Bethlehem, Mansour established the Peace Center in 1983 after the school’s adult rehabilitation facilities were closed. She began with a budget of $200 gleaned from door-to-door donations.

The budget has since grown to $110,000. Mansour said all U.S.-based donations come from Lutheran organizations, including the ELCA and the Lutheran-founded International Partners in Mission, an interfaith nonprofit organization. Other donors include Christoffel Blindenmission from Germany and the English-speaking ministry of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem.

“They have been so good to us,” said Mansour, whose petite frame, small hands and gentle voice belie her strength and determination. “So many friends from the ELCA have kept up with us since the beginning.”

Some 30 young women with varying degrees of blindness come to the center every day for vocational and living-skills training and for academic studies, including Braille in English, Arabic and Hebrew.

Without the center most of the women would be left to sit at home alone. Instead the young women are taught—mostly by blind teachers who serve as role models—handicraft skills in hand and machine knitting, sewing and weaving. Their sweaters, scarves, baby blankets, shawls and vests are sold at modest prices at the center and craft bazaars. The small amount of money they raise goes to the center, which provides center graduates with a small salary.


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