Three years ago during Operation Cast Lead, 13-year-old Loay Soboh and his family took shelter in an UNRWA school in Gaza. After 15 days in the school, his brother took him home to collect some clothes for the rest of the family. Terrified, Loay ran back to the school for safety.
When the family received news of a ceasefire, his father brought Loay home, along with his sister and cousin. Just after he left to bring the rest of the family, an air strike targeted his home. Loay’s father tried to go back inside to rescue his son, but was fired upon each time.
“The second hit, I had injuries on my head, arm, and had a broken nose,” Loay recalled. “Then we were blown in the air; my cousin died instantly.”
Loay lost both of his eyes in the assault. In critical condition, he was sent to Saudi Arabia where he spent one month in hospital. On his return to Gaza, he spent two months at home suffering from painful injuries, and painful loss.
“I was my father’s helpful hands,” he said. “Now I need somebody to help me instead. My life changed completely.” In addition to the physical trauma, Loay became isolated and angry, refusing to speak about what happened to him.
After joining the Friends of the Visually Impaired Society in Gaza, Loay met a social worker at UNRWA’s Rehabilitation Centre for the Visually Impaired (RCVI). Staff evaluated his condition and worked on a recovery plan.
They visited his family’s house in Beit Lahia to assess its accessibility, and talked to the family about the rehabilitation process. Loay registered as a student at the RCVI, and a specialist trained him to enhance his other senses to compensate for his lost sight. He learned how to write, and started attending music and computer classes. He even used his enhanced hearing skills to play soccer.
“Now, with the skills I gained here at the centre, I can depend on myself,” he said. “Being a student at RCVI helped me find a way to live beyond what happened to me.”
The RCVI provides educational and rehabilitation services to 149 children like Loay in Gaza. The centre, managed by UNRWA’s relief and social services programme, helps visually impaired people live independently and with dignity within the local community.
UNRWA relies almost entirely upon donations from individuals, institutional donors and governments. Every dollar you donate to UNRWA helps restore dignity to the lives of refugees who are unable to support themselves due to the loss of livelihoods under the blockade.