WBU-AP Otsuki Award
“LIGHTING UP MY LIFE”
Vietnam Dong Huy Lieu(66/male)
photo: Dong Huy Lieu

It was in 1942 when I was born to a poor family in the countryside of Ninh Binh Province, Vietnam. When I was still very little, my father passed away. As I grew up, I became gradually aware of my unfortunate situation. However, I did not despair and decided that I should study hard as I had hopes of being able to contribute to the welfare of my country.
In 1960 I was delighted to find a job as a teacher. This gave me the opportunity to help the children in the countryside who came from poor and ignorant families. Things went on very well until 1965 when we were caught up in the American war and I was infected by Agent Orange, a poisonous chemical which the Americans sprayed from the air.
I gradually lost my sight until in 1985 I became totally blind. Pessimism began to set in and I suffered from an inferiority complex. I did not feel like going anywhere or talking to anybody. I felt like an invalid and a burden to my family and society. I was afraid that my blindness would mean poverty for me all the rest of my life.
Then, in 1992, Braille came to me like rice and water to a person who is hungry and thirsty. I learned Braille passionately and lost myself in the learning process. Deep in my heart I knew that Braille would be the key to my success. Day by day, I touched the dots and combined them in different ways to form letters and words. Within a very short period of one week, I felt I had acquired sufficient skills to enable me to read the report at the first Congress which would make the decision on whether we should establish the Blind Association of Ninh Binh Province.
With the help of Braille, I was able to learn various farming techniques in feeding chickens and pigs, growing vegetables and the brewing of wine. Combining the techniques, I was able to develop the VAC model -- Garden, pond and cage.
This enabled me to take advantage of the waste and other by-products to improve the farm and to produce feedstock. In this way, I was able to economise on costs and at the same time to keep the environment clean.
By now my family, relatives and friends were greatly impressed by my progress and achievements. Soon my family began to participate actively by making tooth-picks and brushes for sale.
In addition to Braille, I had the opportunity to pick up some computer skills. This was a great help to me in my studies and in my work. In fact, it flung wide open for me the door to knowledge and information.
After five years of hard work, I managed to have some savings. With this money, I bought some bricks to build a house. On completion, I had a solid and spacious dwelling with modern facilities - it was certainly much better than my previous low-roofed home. Thus, my family was able to escape from poverty and I was no longer a parasite or a burden to them. Indeed, it filled me with pride to know that I was a man with education and that I could share my success not only with my family but with the community at large as well.
Equipped with Braille skills, I became a confident, ardent and enthusiastic social worker. I helped hundreds of blind persons to learn Braille and to develop techniques in agriculture, home crafts and other services. I showed other blind teachers how to draw up their lesson plans and how to use information to make their lessons informative and interesting to the students. Our daily classes were attended even by many of the elderly blind who were over seventy years old. Indeed, our Swedish friends were greatly impressed to see our blind students learning Braille so passionately!
At many conferences, me and my blind comrades were able to deliver presentations on Vietnamese history and culture. We took the opportunity to express our views on the hopes and expectations of the blind community with regards to programmes and activities to improve our lives in the province. We were highly appreciated by our Government, and the authorities supported the efforts of our association to construct an office and a centre for education and vocational training. The Government also provided houses for the blind who were from poor families.
We set up a recreational club to promote music and sports among the blind, thereby encouraging them to lead a healthy and active life-style. Through the club, competitions were organised and we were able to exchange information, promote communication and even bring happiness to many couples. Using Braille, we drew up the vocational training curriculum and this enabled us to help thousands of blind persons to acquire knowledge on how to run the household economy or to gain employment, thereby escaping from poverty.
Thus, with the appearance of Braille and with the establishment of the association, our lives have been significantly changed. Because of the increased public awareness with regards to blindness, the blind and vision-impaired people are now treated with respect. The community in general is much more friendly to us and there is a much greater understanding of the needs of the blind.
We have Louis Braille to thank for all these benefits.


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