WBU-AP(Senior group) Fine Work
“How Braille Changed My Life And Contributed To My Success”
Myanmar Maung Maung Soe (67/Male)
I suffered from smallpox at the age of six and it caused me to lose my eyesight. Even though I could not see, I could hear the neighbouring children of around my age reciting their daily lessons. I was unable to go to school as they did and I felt great disappointment, discouragement and indescribable pain.
My home was more than 150 miles from the capital city of Yangon and the communication system was poor and ineffective. Thus, no one in my neighbourhood knew how to get into contact with the relevant authorities in order to find out whether there were any institutions for the blind.
One day, and quite unexpectedly, we heard that a blind old man had moved into our village. He told us that there was a school for the blind in Yangon and that I could get help to be enrolled in the school. Indeed, this was my lucky break! - With his fatherly love and guidance, I became a student at St. Michael's School in Yangon.
I was a keen student of Braille and worked hard to master the skill. In every class that I attended, I enjoyed learning how to write essays as it gave me the opportunity to express my feelings and my great appreciation for "Grandpa Louis", who invented the Braille system. Through Braille and by writing essays, I was able to share my knowledge and experiences with other people. I never dreamed that this would one day open up the opportunity for me to take part in the Onkyo Braille Essay Contest.
When I was in fifth grade, I discovered that based on the System of only six dots, it was possible to create sixty-three symbols. The senior students in my school used this idea to invent their own secret code. For example, dot 1 would mean number 1 while dot 6 would mean number sixty-three. And so if there was a stranger among us, we would pass the word round to one another by saying "number 29" or "dot 2346" - In Burmese Braille, this would be the beginning of the spelling for the word, "stranger", meaning that "29" represented the word, "stranger".
The Anglican Mission, which founded St. Michael's School, had also set up a Vocational Training Centre where the blind could take up courses in cane and bamboo handicrafts as well as massage. After completing my studies at the School, I was appointed as the Deputy Administrator at St. Mary's Workshop and Training Centre for the Blind. The secret code invented by the senior students came in very handy one day.
According to Burmese Braille, "number 34" was at the beginning of the spelling for the word, "thief". By using this code, we were able to identify and catch the thieves who entered our Workshop at least three times.
Our Workshop is housed in a two-storey building with the handicrafts programme on the ground floor and the hostel for students on the upper floor. It was on a hot day in March 1971 when five students and myself were in a conversation and enjoying Chinese tea on the upper floor. Suddenly, one of the students heard the sound of footsteps and alerted our attention.
"Who's there?" We asked, but no one replied. We warned each other that it must be a "34" (or "thief"). Quietly, we moved towards the direction of the footsteps. We smelt something strange and aromatic - we were certain that there was a stranger in the building. We decided to shut the main door and I sent one of the students to fetch somebody to check the room. By using the code, "34", the thief was not alarmed and hid in the room.
At last, someone came and discovered that the thief was, in fact, a woman. She was sent to the police station. She was caught with the help of our secret Braille code and our sense of smell.
At school, Braille was very useful in studying numbers and remembering historical dates. Later, we were able to apply this skill in storing numbers in the handphone. On one occasion, a friend gave me his phone number and address as Building A, Room 15, Number I 412015. I marked this information as Baro Data and it has remained there for a long time. This method of storing memory can also be used for Biblical chapters and verses.
During the period from January 1991 to April 2004, I was working in the Teaching Aids Production Department of the Myanmar Christian Fellowship of the Blind (MCFB). Although I was not a graduate, I was a skilled Braillist not only in English Braille but also in the two kinds of the Burmese Braille system. Therefore, I was promoted to the position of Head of the Department in 1995.
While serving in this Department, I organised the translation of the Myanmar Holy Bible into Braille. The first of the Bible Books to be translated was the Gospel of St. Luke.
I also organised the programme to review and revise the Karen Braille System. About fifty years ago, an American Missionary had invented the Karen Braille System but the System had later been abandoned. We managed to retrieve 70% of the work and provided solutions to the remaining 30% of the System. We also helped to develop the grade 2 level for the Karen Braille System.
In my childhood days, I was so filled with discouragement that only thoughts of becoming a beggar haunted my mind. Now, with God's grace and because of Braille, I have become a part-time Pastor at a Church and I am very happy to be playing an active role in the blessed community. Truly, Braille is the light of my World and the guide to my future. Braille has changed my life; it has contributed to my development and progress and has enabled me to lead an enriching and successful