WBU-AP(Junior Group) Fine work
The Challenges Of Living With Blindness
Myanmar
Hla Hla Myint (24, Female)

As I hear the hawkers shouting and selling their Myanmar traditional snacks, memories of the past twenty years in my life flash back into my mind. Among our four siblings, my youngest sister and I have been blind from birth. We lived in the outskirts of Meiktila at the time. My father was the driver for a distinguished person in Meiktila but my father's salary was not sufficient to support the family. So my mother had to sell Myanmar traditional snacks in order to make ends meet. Indeed, in spite of my parents' anxiety for both my sister and me, they were willing to work hard and long during the day in order to keep the family together.
We had a lot of relatives but none of them sympathised with us and they did not offer any assistance to our family. Moreover, many of the people in our country were quite narrow-minded and they shunned our family; their perception was that my father had not been favoured with blessings because he had two children who were blind. Our neighbours were afraid that misfortune would befall them if they communicated with anyone of us. Thus, we not only lived a life in poverty, but we also felt dejected and rejected by society.
It was at the age of ten when I began to realise the state of existence that we were in. Our life was filled with sorrows, worries and loneliness for both me and my sister. We were living in a world of despair without any hope or dreams for our future. There was not a single day for us to smile and most of them ended up in sobs and tears.
Being the eldest daughter, I decided to take it upon myself to help my mother in carrying water, slicing vegetables and in taking care of my younger siblings. Actually, my mother never asked me to do anything but I felt so sorry for her suffering and hardship that I felt this would be the best way for me to share her burden and sorrow. Truly, those were difficult times as I did the cooking, washed the clothes and dishes, and cleaned the house without the benefit of sight. Nonetheless, being able to help in the family made me feel satisfied that I could at least help to bring some relief to my mother.
Whenever I heard the children in my neighbourhood pllaying, I would long to go out there to join in the play and to laugh with them. But when I heard them coming home from school, I would be filled with sadness because I could not attend school like them. As I heard them talking about what they had learnt in school, I broke down and cried. Grandfather would sooth me down saying, "Don't worry, little girl, all living things in this world appear and disappear according to their fate..
Another saying from my grandfather I will never forget - "Everything is changing and nothing is constant." The truth and wisdom of the words became evident in my own life and I will never forget that day which brought change to me. It was on the day when the headman of our village together with some teachers from a school for the blind paid a visit to our home. They talked to my parents and asked me some questions. They told us that they had opened a school for the blind in their town. besides school lessons, the teachers there also taught music and vocational skills. As soon as I heard the news, I could not hide my joy and delight and I immediately told them that I had been wanting for a long time to attend school. With excitement, I sought permission from my parents and their positive reply made me so happy and joyous. Hope and light had suddenly appeared before me and I knew that one day I will be able to stand on my own two feet.
Hence, at the age of fifteen, I started learning how to read and write in Braille. Not long after, this opened up the opportunity for me to attend a government school. During the school holidays, I would put into practice the massage skills that I had acquired from the school for the blind. Eventually, I was able to go to university where I studied hard and obtained the Bachelor of Arts Degree.
My qualifications gave me the opportunity to serve as a teacher at the New Life School for the Blind in Meiktila. It truly gives me such a wonderful feeling as I am able to impart knowledge to the children who are in the same boat as me. I am also very happy to be able to provide physical therapy and good health to my neighbours through massage. Now I feel so satisfied with life as I have the means to support my family, thereby bringing smiles to the faces of my parents.
My old neighbours have totally changed in their attitude towards me and my family. They no longer discriminate against us as they used to do in the old days. I can now feel the warm glow in my heart as I hear the sweet words of praise and recognition from my relatives.
I am now truly happy, delighted and completely satisfied with my life. Now I am able to receive love, warmth and respect from everyone that I meet. In return, I can dedicate myself to the blind pupils in my school as a teacher, sharing with them the knowledge and skills that I have myself acquired.

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