WBU-AP(Junior Group) Fine work
Changing Public Attitudes Towards Blindness
Vietnam
Huynh Thi Thu Thuy (24, Female)

I am caught up in the winds from the country-side which mingle with the sound of talking passengers. Suddenly, my phone rings and I hastily put the phone to my ear.
A gentle, warm and familiar voice chimes out, "Have you got on to the train? We are waiting for you!"
"Yes, I'm on the train," I replied. "I'll reach the station at around 5 pm, Mom."
"Remember to eat full. See you this afternoon. Goodbye!" She said.
My mother is often most concerned for me amongst our six brothers and sisters. She would always remind me to take care and do everything that needs to be done, especially when I am away from home. I am so happy that my mother cares for me.
The train is running fast on the rails, passing by houses, rice-fields and villages. Suddenly, memories flash through my mind and I am overcome by a sense of melancholy. It was my sister's wedding day and all my relatives were present. Everyone seemed busy and had forgotten all about me who was left alone, a blind person, playing dolls in another room.
After the wedding was over, the family gathered and my father happily announced, "Now that the wedding has been successfully completed, I want to give you some happy news. Thuy is going to study in a school for the disabled in Da Nang City."
Suddenly, the happy atmosphere became hushed and quiet and everybody was looking at father.
My father's sister stood up and said, "What funny thing is this? What can she do? She is blind! Better to keep her at home. She can't do anything after graduating!"
To relieve the stressful atmosphere, my father gently said, "At first I also thought like you. However, after discussing with my wife, we think that it may be wise to send her to school. Then she will have more friends."
I did not want to hear any more. The words were like blades stabbing at my sad heart. My throat choked, my eyes grew wet with tears, and I ran out of the room in order to avoid the staring eyes of pity and disregard.
Then, as I reflect, I remember a beautiful morning as the dancing sunbeams and gentle breezes rejoice in my moments of pleasure. It was my first day at the special school for the blind known as Nguyen Dinh Chieu in Da Nang City. My life had turned over a new page.
As the days passed, life away from home seemed to be filled with ever more difficulties. I found the new environment to be very frustrating and I wanted to drop out. Then when I was in Grade Six, we were moved to a public school for Integrated Education with sighted students.
I had entered a new and even more challenging phase in my life. As we followed the teacher and entered the school-gate, I could sense the curious looks and teasing from the sighted students.
Initially, my sighted class-mates were afraid to communicate with me. They were annoyed with the sound of my Braille machine as I took down notes which disturbed them during the class lessons. They felt uncomfortable having to read to me so that I could put the notes into Braille. Indeed, they were very reluctant to help me.
However, with the Braille skills I had acquired, I could read my textbooks in Braille. Tactile models were produced for me to touch and this enabled me to learn Geometry. We had to submit our homework in Braille which would be converted into sighted letters by special teachers. I did not feel comfortable with this method and I proposed to my teachers to allow me to read out my Braille work in the class-room and they could then grade me by giving me the marks directly.
After observing the high test scores that I was able to obtain many a time, my class-mates soon began to acknowledge me and they drew closer to me. Some of them even sought my help in explaining certain exercises that they did not understand. This really lighted up my fire of ambition and gave me the energy to prepare for future success.
I started winning a number of prizes. Firstly, I won the second prize in the Biology examination for good students at city level. Then I got the national consolation prize in the 39th UPU Letter-writing Contest. Subsequently, I was awarded the Certificate of Merit for "Talented Vietnamese Girls" through the Kotex Scholarship Fund by the Ministry of Education and Training.
Later, I gained admission to the Ho Chi Minh University to do the Social Sciences and Humanities Course at the Social Work Faculty. I studied hard and I passed all the examinations. During the summer vacations, I would take up a part-time job in selling lottery tickets so that I could pay for my education and at the same time contribute towards helping with the family finances. Thus, I was able to prove to everyone that I was capable of supporting myself which meant that I was not a burden to my family or to society.
Being lost in my thoughts of the past, I did not realise that I had arrived at the station. Suddenly, I heard my mother calling out my name. As we travelled home, I basked in the joy and pride of my mother for me. At the same time, I was in suspense and worry as I thought of the inquisitive eyes that would be upon me.
To my great surprise and relief, the happy laughter of my father's sister greeted me at the gate.
"Dear Thuy," She said. I have not seen you for the last twelve years. I've heard lots about you. You look more mature and you are our pride!"
Everyone was so warm towards me as they asked about my studies, my job and my achievements. The weariness from my long journey vanished and I felt an indescribable joy spreading around as people indicated that they understood and recognised me.
In the inner depths of my being, I felt a sense of gratitude to my parents who had given me birth, life, beliefs, aspirations and the energy flame to overcome all the challenges that had come my way.

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