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Nureddin writes from Ramallah:
Hope you are all doing well. I would very much like to share our week of success with all of you. Following my New York marathon journey with all its amazements and excitements, I came back home to win two national prizes: the ‘Palestine Prize of education’ and the ‘Prize of Elham Palestine‘, which I received today in an official ceremony in Ram Allah attended by prime Minister Salam Fayyad , Minister of Education, Marwan Awartani and many other personalities and sponsoring organisations. More happily, a group of our visually handicapped athletes won the national championship across Palestine in ‘goal-ball‘, and honored the cub. I hope our consecutive successes will inspire more Arab innovators, and become a good example of change and social philanthropy.
There were almost 45,000 participants in the New York Marathon this year, and 1 representing Palestine: Nureddin Amro. The visit to New York involved a difficult challenge, a great experience and an opportunity to meet and exchange experiences with many very interesting people and organizations. The new learning and knowledge will enrich the school tremendously.
Come back to this blog to get updates on Siraj al-Quds School!
Having visited the Bronx for the first time at mile 20 of the marathon, Nureddin returned a second and third time to visit the New York Institute for Special Education and the Lavelle School for the Blind. He toured both schools, meeting faculty and students, and learned about each school’s assistive technology and teaching methodologies.
His last meeting in New York was with Imam Shamsi Ali at the Islamic Cultural Center.
He finished the New York marathon in 7 hours 50 minutes:
It’s a big challenge that I could accomplish with persistence, perseverance, and insistence to achieve the goal. I feel happy to have shown that disabled people can really participate like able-bodied people even in the most challenging events, with success.
I am really inspired by older people I have met, who completed the marathon. I never could have believed they would be able to do it.
Staten Island (waiting for the start at the Achilles tent)
Heading to the start on the Verrazano bridge
On 4th Avenue in Brooklyn
Feeling good and almost halfway there!
Reaching the half-marathon point on the Pulaski Bridge, going into Queens
Running in Queens
On First Avenue in Manhattan
The last 50 meters …
The International Friendship Run that covers 4 kilometers between the United Nations and the finish line of the marathon is a joyful event happening the day before marathon day. Nureddin participated with some kids from the United Nations International School, and met some colorful characters along the way.
Nureddin visited the Harriet and Robert Heilbrunn Guild School at the Jewish Guild for the Blind and was impressed with their technologies, especially the “cues” and concrete objects that are used in daily activities and programs. The school also utilizes devices that enable communication between deaf and visually impaired people. Stuart Filan, an orientation and mobility instructor at the Guild School, led a tour of the facilities. Nureddin met faculty and students, and observed several classroom sessions.
At the Achilles International Chapter meeting, Nureddin met and exchanged experiences with Achilles organizations from South Africa, New Zealand, Russia, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Poland, Spain and other countries. His plan is to create the first Palestinian chapter of Achilles.
Dick Traum, founder of Achilles (pictured with Nureddin below), outlined objectives for the international activities of Achilles in the coming year. He also shared information about the marathon on Sunday and details on the weather. “It will be very cold – he noted – but the Russians will be fine”. The starting point of the marathon on the Verrazano bridge tends to be 10 degrees chillier than the surrounding areas.
At the Achilles dinner following the meeting, Nureddin met David and Julie, who along with Mike and Ferne will be his guides on marathon day. He is pictured below with David, Julia and Miss New York, who will be handing out medals at the finish.
As Julia noted, Nur is “run” spelled backwards, which makes “run Nur run” a good rallying cry.
On a rainy Thursday in New York, Nureddin visited the ING Marathon Expo to pick up his race number and shirt.
In the photo below he is pictured with members of the Achilles International from South Africa.
At the expo he also met Michael, who will be one of his guides on marathon day.
Today Nureddin visited Visions at Selis Manor, an adapted learning environment and meeting place for youth, adults and seniors who are blind or visually impaired. Nureddin toured the center and met with staff to discuss the programming and exchange ideas. Nureddin was excited to learn of Visions comprehensive creative arts program and job training for youth.
Matthew Sapolin, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, discussed with Nur the programs of the City of New York for the disabled and gave some good marathon advice.
The Pen Friend purchased by Nureddin arrived today in the mail. This is an easy-to-use audio labeling system which will be very useful to organize important documents and correspondence. A video on the Pen Friend is here
Nureddin visited the Lighthouse International, a worldwide organization dedicated to overcoming vision impairment through rehabilitation, education, research and advocacy. He met with the Senior Vice President of Policy and Evaluation who gave him an introduction to the activities and impact of Lighthouse International. Subsequently, he toured the Child Development Center with the school principal. Like the Siraj al-Quds School, the Center provides an integrated environment for early education, in which all children thrive. Nureddin also learned about advances in accessible technologies – which can be used by both sighted and visually impaired people – from the Marketing Director.
Nureddin talked about his work with middle school students from the United Nations International School in New York. Siraj al-Quds school has received support from the United Nations Development Programme, among others, and Nur has applied to be a volunteer with the United Nations under the UN Volunteers program.
He also explored the last few miles of the marathon course, paused at the statue of Fred Lebow (founder of the New York Marathon), and familiarized himself the finish line.
Nureddin spent the morning exploring the marathon course from mile 16 (First Avenue) to mile 23 (Fifth Avenue). Several marathon runners were jogging along this section of the course. Nureddin is pictured below on the course at Fifth Avenue in Harlem.
At the Synergos office, he talked with interns Rana (1st from L), Shashi and Alaa (4th and 5th from L), who are supporting the recruitment of the new class of Arab World Social Innovators. Sheena Reiter (3rd from L) is organizing Nur’s schedule in New York.
After a call with the Open Society Foundation’s Disability Rights Initiative,
Nur met with Steve Sloan, Physical Education teacher at P.S. 102 in East Harlem, and his collaborator Lorenzo Cowell. Steve, a blind athlete and basketball coach who has worked in education for the last 30 years, was one of the carriers of the Olympic torch at the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy. He gave Nur some tips on how to prepare for the marathon and how to “bring his A game” to this big event.
Nuredddin’s first full day in New York included started with a visit to the Baruch Computer Center for Visually Impaired People and then with Synergos.
Baruch was interesting – I saw some new assistive technology used by blind and visually handicapped people. We exchanged experiences with them and agreed to continue cooperation.
A pizza lunch was held at Synergos with staff, a number board members, and interns to hear about Nureddin’s work and plans for the marathon.
In the afternoon, Nur explored some of the Manhattan downtown area, including the farmers’ market in Union Square.