WBU-AP Otsuki Award
“Collecting the pearls of wisdom in life”
Indonesia Jenni Heryani (58/Female)

photo: Dong Huy Lieu


Blindness came to me when I was five years old and, as might be expected, my parents were heartbroken. Although they kept worrying about me, I believe they never lost hope in me. This was because as parents, they treated me and my siblings fairly and I always felt that I was included in their loving care. Now that my parents have passed away, I continually pray to God for their peace and happiness in the hereafter
When I was seven, my parents followed the physician's advice and brought me to a special school for blind children in Bandung. This made my parents hopeful that one day I would be able to live an independent life.
At school, I had the opportunity to go through the same kind of syllabus and subjects as my siblings in the normal public education system. Mastering the Braille skills gave me the ability to read and write, thereby enabling me to gain a kick start for my later achievements.
Thus, I was able to pass through the different levels of education one by one with satisfying results. Eventually, I was able to complete my studies at the German Department of the Institute of Teacher Training and Education (IKIP) in Bandung, which was a public college that produced professional teachers.
Towards the end of my under-graduate studies, however, I was confronted by a difficult and inevitable situation. I received low scores in my literature course. This was because I did not have any German literary books in Braille and I felt sad, disgusted and mad at me. I envied my friends because they could read all the assigned books immediately and submit their assignments promptly. As I was usually late in handing up my assignments to the lecturers, I felt myself to be in a very helpless situation.
Nevertheless, I continued to struggle hard to find the books in the library and I sought assistance from a voluntary reader who was proficient in the German language. The reader would either read to me directly or the voice would be recorded on cassette-tape for me to read in my own time. I was then able to make summaries of the stories and copy them in Latin text with the help of an ordinary typewriter. As I could not read the books myself and I was not yet fluent with German, my writing style was thus limited and my scores were terrible.
Eventually, God gave me a way. One day I was introduced to the director of a special school for the blind in Duren, Germany when he visited my college. I then decided to write a letter to him and I attached a compulsory reading book-list for students who would be sitting for the final examination.
For a while, I heard nothing and I thought that was the end. Then there was a surprise for me. I received a package from the Central Braille Library of Germany. I was so happy because, out of the blue, my wish had suddenly been granted. In the package I found a number of Braille novels, dramas, and even a Braille German Dictionary. How marvelous - the Braille books had saved my life! I could now strive to fulfill my dream of becoming the first blind scholar and teacher of German in Indonesia.
In January 1981, I started teaching as a civil servant in the special school of my childhood days. Every time I received my monthly salary, I would remember to thank God for his constant support. With God's guiding hand, I felt the teaching and learning processes to be flowing smoothly at work. I experienced great joy in teaching the blind students and everything fell into place in my world of Braille letters and words.
But how could I teach my own little children who were not blind? Then, when I wanted to teach them colors, I bought a packet of colored paper. I Braille-coded the color for each sheet of paper - red, yellow, green, blue, white and black. I handed the Braille-coded paper to my children one by one, and as I did so, I mentioned the name of each color. My eldest child, who was three years old, was really happy to be able to play and learn at the same time. I applied the method repeatedly so that they finally comprehended my lesson on the basic colors. "Hurray!" my children would shout happily each time they were praised for mentioning the correct color of the objects I showed to them.
I also used an educative toy to improve my children's creativity. In the game, there was a puzzle with a number of blocks which indicated the Latin numbers and letters. To play with my children, I applied another Braille coding. I attached a piece of cellophane tape with a Braille number or letter on it to the bottom of a block, i.e. letters A to Z or numbers zero to nine. I did likewise for the mathematical symbols of equal, plus, minus, and so on. I showed my children how to construct or move the blocks around so that they could be arranged to form words and arithmetic sums or to make way for other formations. By touching the Braille letters and numbers I could guide my children to learn and memorize the numbers and letters on the blocks.
It definitely required a lot of patience and plenty of time for me to reach my goal - but alhamdulilah, by the time my children were ready for school, they could read the words in the first-grade book or perform simple calculations like addition and subtraction. And so time flew very quickly and, before I realized it, my two children had grown up. Both of them went on to tertiary education and got flying colors and academic success. With their Bachelor's degrees, they found good careers with good income.
Meanwhile, I was myself advancing into senior age. The days passed by so smoothly as though there were no problems at all. In reality, however, something of crucial importance kept me constantly aware that earnestness and sincerity were most essential in enabling me to find solutions to problems.
I have a conviction that even a senior woman must stay knowledgeable and tough. Therefore, amidst my busy days, I never miss reading Braille Magazines, both local and foreign ones. Braille and audio devices have brought changes into my life. They have made it possible for me to work in school, to carry out my organizational tasks, communicate with people in cyber-space, and conduct my daily activities such as operating my bank account, checking my insurance policy premiums, and dealing with my medication.
Truly, Braille has reduced my dependence on other people, thereby enabling me to emerge into the bright world of sunshine and freedom. Louis Braille, you have decorated my life with such beautiful pearls of wisdom and gained me a human life of prestige, joy and prosperity with my family.
God be praised for making me a productive and independent senior!


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