'Counting My Blessings:' A Story of Strength, Patience and Faith

manar

Manar Kheir, a freshman and recipient of the Sawiris Undergraduate Scholarships for Students with Disabilities, was six months old when her parents realized there was a problem with her eyesight. They took her to the doctor, hoping to find a solution to her deteriorating vision, but were informed that she would eventually go blind and nothing could be done to stop it. "Do you have any advice?" Kheir’s parents asked the doctor, still holding on to a little strand of hope that their daughter would recover. His advice to them: dedicate everything in your lives to her education. 

And that’s what Kheir’s parents did, not set back by the fact that their daughter couldn’t see. Kheir attended El-Amal School for Blind Girls in Cairo, receiving high grades throughout her studies there and graduating top of her class in her senior year.

“I'm grateful that my parents took that advice," Kheir said. "The best thing you can do with your money is invest it in education because education is timeless." 

And while she faced difficulties throughout, she always chose to persevere instead of back down. 

“I have found challenges in every stage of my life,” she said, “but with every challenge, I decided to work harder, to believe in myself more and to master patience.” 

It’s patience especially, she said, that has helped her overcome the most difficult of times. She describes learning Braille as one of the toughest times in her life, and she was close to giving up entirely on learning how to read, especially after noticing how her classmates were catching on quickly. However, it was constant reminders that people work at different paces and that she, too, was as capable as anyone else that got her to push through.

Reading is now her favorite pastime. She’s read just about all the novels of her favorite authors Nabil Farouk and Ahmed Khaled Tawfik. Kheir’s love for reading even inspired her knack for writing poetry and short stories and is influenced by the likes of Nizar Qabbani, Ahmed Shawki and Elia Abu Madi.  

“I always notice that beautiful things come out of the challenges I face,” she said. 

Kheir has had to carry those virtues of patience and perseverance with her here at AUC, where she has been introduced to an environment unlike anything she’s been in before, she describes. Adjusting to dorm life, taking intensive English courses to improve her language skills and being around people from all walks of life have presented more than just new hurdles, but have forced her to be more aware of the decisions she makes in life. Kheir said that her lowest points in life have been the times when she views her disability as an obstacle to her happiness. Instead, she strives to view it as being a unique part of her identity with a purpose of pushing her to be the best version of herself and reminding her of everything she has to be thankful for.

“Whenever I’m feeling down, I study harder, I pray harder and I count my blessings,” she said. “There are so many people who don’t have the opportunity to go to school or who don’t have a support system like I do.” 

Here at AUC, Kheir aims to take her passion for writing into an academic and professional setting. She hopes to study journalism and mass communication at the University.  

Seeing the change that news can incite through shedding light on issues like impoverished communities and women’s rights, Kheir said she hopes to make use of the platform to bring awareness to matters close to her. 

“I want to be a TV presenter and use my voice to make changes in society,” she said.

Kheir looks forward to joining student clubs soon and getting involved in volunteering activities. And during her time at AUC — and for the rest of her life — not only does she want to learn from the classes she takes, the people she meets and the jobs she has, but she wants people to learn from her as well. 

“Everyone faces difficulties in different forms,” she said, “but you have to be strong, have faith and always look at the glass half full.”