Responding to a plea for help can sometimes have unforeseen consequences. This adventure of a community caring for the blind, gives rise to an original pilot experiment.
Oran, Algeria’s second city, overlooks the Mediterranean. It is also one of the major commercial and cultural centers of North Africa.
One group of mostly Muslims are engaged in living out the values of brotherhood as they are presented by the Focolare Movement. Scheherezad has been part of it since 1990. They have been involved in an ongoing experience with the blind: “In 1977,”she recounts, “I met a Catholic nun who was looking for someone who could teach French to a group of blind people from the city. I didn’t feel equipped for such a task, I’m a housewife and it seemed beyond my abilities. But in agreement with my husband, I decided to accept the work, thinking that there might be a plan of God in this.”
“As time went by we began to see that our attitude of openness towards the other gave a special quality to our teaching: it turned into an opportunity to offer support to the people. Some needed to find employment, others needed some simple help or a comforting word.”
To better meet the needs of their students, Fouzia and Sheherezad learned Braille. This did not go unnoticed: “One of our friends, seeing how we were giving out time so freely, decided to help us and join with us in this effort.”
They tried to help some of the young men and women to begin jobs. One girl, for example, looked for work as a switchboard operator. They found a company: “We noticed the director’s willingness to help us in finding a way. And he was struck by our effort and decided to hire the young woman indefinitely.”
All the community of Orano shares in the projects and in reaching the goals. We have organized open houses to acquaint people with the rich life that can be found in this world of the blind. “The theme of the open house is always “the other” and, in the end, there are no longer those who are blind and those who see; the Muslim and the Christian: we are all brothers and sisters sharing the same situation.”
The national press became interested in these activities, recognizing the right of the blind to live like everyone else. It is also a work of sensitizing that has involved many people in the efforts of Sheherazad and Fouzia.
Overcoming administrative and legal difficulties, an association has been formed for professional integration of the blind, which is very active and is working for the construction of a school. City institutions have also become involved and this training project has now been officially recognized by the department for professional training of Orano.
“There is still a lot to do,” Sheherazad concludes, “but doing things for others, notwithstanding our limitations, is beautiful and thrilling! It gives everyone that strength to carry on which throws us open to new surprises.”