25 September 2019
Mohammed Alwan, playing the electric piano in the music class at the UNRWA Rehabilitation Centre for the visually impaired (RCVI) in Gaza. © 2018 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan.

Mercy USA for Aid and Development has contributed a generous donation to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to benefit some 500 visually impaired Palestine refugee students at the Rehabilitation Center for the Visually Impaired (RCVI) in Gaza.

The Centre offers rehabilitation, education, eye screenings and academic integration programs to children aged between 4-12 years who live with varying degrees of visual impairment. RCVI, which is the only center of its kind in the Gaza Strip, has been operated by UNRWA for the last 55 years.

“I love my school,” says 7-year-old Mohammed Alwan, who dreams of one day becoming a doctor. “It’s not easy to be a blind child. I want to learn, play, dream and enjoy my life equally with all children across the world. RCVI is the only place in Gaza that gives me the opportunity to access education.”

Like many children at the Centre, Alwan was born blind. However, as a primary student at the RCVI, he and his peers are provided with education and rehabilitation services that are tailored to each child’s specific conditions. Children with severely impaired visual acuity receive training on Braille with the aid of assistive devices like the Perkins writing machine. Low-vision students also receive specially tailored education courses aimed at helping them fully-integrate into regular public or private schools by the sixth grade.

Despite the Agency’s ongoing funding shortfall, UNRWA remains committed to helping more than 532,000 Palestine refugee girls and boys reach their full development potential through its inclusive education programs across 709 schools.

This Mercy-USA intervention will provide crucial funding for specialized instructors, an optometrist, and dozens of eyeglasses for students. Additionally, funds from the US-based organization will help cover the cost of recreational activities designed to give these special children a sense of normalcy despite their challenges.

Mercy-USA is a humanitarian organization focused on alleviating human suffering and supporting individuals and their communities in their efforts to become self-sufficient. Launched in 1988 in Michigan, Mercy-USA supports dozens of health, nutrition and education programs worldwide. This is its second donation to the RCVI.

For 70 years, UNRWA has delivered effective and reliable humanitarian support to Palestine refugees. The Agency’s services include free health care and education, food and cash assistance and microcredit loans to 5.5 million Palestine refugees facing extreme hardship in Jordan, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank.