BEIRUT: Sana Fakih ran her fingers over the top of a tea box decorated in brightly colored mosaic tiles, on sale Tuesday at a Ramadan bazaar in Verdun, one of the first of the season. If someone asked her to design something like this, she couldn’t, Fakih said while admiring the box.
“I can!” shouted Fady Osseiran, who decorated a number of the boxes on display.
Osseiran has autism. He along with dozens of other physically and mentally disabled men and women were the artisans behind the expert-quality crafts on sale at the Holiday Inn in Verdun this Tuesday and Wednesday.
The bazaar features everything from hand-painted glasses to handwoven fruit-and-nut baskets.
The two-day bazaar will raise money for the Friends of the Disabled Association and its educational Idad Center, which help children and adults integrate into society through vocational training, event organizers said. The bazaar is open from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The detailed painting and finely decorated silverware show no sign the craftsmen are limited by a physical or mental handicap. Rows of freshly made sweet breads and traditional holiday cookies, delicate gold jewelry with Arabesque detail, and contemporary furniture designs with mosaic embellishments cover more than two dozen display tables.
Prices range from a few dollars for a loaf of sweet bread to $150 for a hefty woven gift basket. The real payoff is not the money raised, but allowing the artisans to see their work admired and bought by members of the community, said Fakih, assistant director at the Idad Center.
“They love to see their product on display. Look, he’s showing his parents what he made,” she said, pointing to Hadi Abu Diab, one of the students at Idad Center. Abu Diab specializes in mosaics and pottery.
Many of the adult students were able describe their work in fluent English and Arabic.
Idad Center begins working with children at age 2 or 3 with early intervention classes, Fakih said. By age 12, the children begin pre-vocational training to learn about the different crafts.
When they are ready, the students begin working in their chosen vocation: jewelry making, basket weaving, baking, mosaics and painting, among other trades. In addition to vocational training, Idad Center also offers special education classes, different kinds of therapeutic services, assessment and diagnoses, summer camps and independent living facilitation.
This is the association’s 23rd annual Ramadan bazaar, which is just one of the many annual holiday sales, which include Christmas and Easter events. The students work year-round, and all items are on sale directly from Idad Center throughout the year, Fakih said.
Idad employs a team of professional artists in addition to those like Fakih, who specialize in disability services. Fakih spends lots of time researching new projects and crafts Idad can introduce into its vocational training. The artists figure out ways to give each product a unique professional touch, she said.
On display at the Ramadan bazaar are also a range of handmade items donated by the parents of students, including fine linens, syrups and traditional-style clothing.
“These are made by the parents committee,” Fakih said. “This is really a community.”