WBU-AP (Senior group) Fine Work
"Braille in my life"
Vien Thuy Dung (68, female, Vietnam)

I was born in 1940 to a poor family living in VinhCity in the province of Nghe An. In 1943 I had serious sore eyes and, due to untimely treatment, the condition worsened and this caused me to lose my sight. Thus, at around the age when every child was going to school, I had no choice but to spend my lonely days at home. I was surrounded by the four walls and I occupied the time of my childhood with dreams and fancies.
Ten years later in 1953, there was a campaign to promote the eradication of illiteracy nationwide. My house was used as a class-room for the people in our neighbourhood. As I had a keen desire to go to school, I took this golden opportunity to attend the classes and to learn the alphabet by heart. My mother chipped in by cutting hard covers into letters for me to touch. This enabled me to learn how to join the letters together to form words.
Then, in 1955, we moved to Hanoi city, and we cherished the hope of finding good doctors to treat my disease. I was examined in a number of hospitals but all the doctors came to the same conclusion -- my eyes could not be treated at all. It was a great disappointment for me.
Fortunately, my mother did not give up on me. Instead, she taught me how to knit with the idea that the skill would enable me to earn a living. However, because of the many patterns and varied styles, I felt that knitting was not a suitable trade for the blind.
Five years later in 1960, the opportunity came for me to go to the Ba Dinh Braille School. This school had been established by some blind wounded soldiers living in Hanoi. I was introduced to Braille and, since then, it has been a constant flame enlightening my whole life. In fact, knitting became easier for me as I could now make important notes in Braille regarding the variations in knitting patterns and styles. By using Braille, I was also able to learn the English language and to study music, both of which have truly enriched my life intellectually and spiritually.
With the establishment of the Vietnam Blind Association in 1969, I was given the opportunity to help in organising the activities of the organisation. I was especially happy to have been assigned the duty of translating reading materials into Braille, which included textbooks, story-books, newspapers and magazines.
Then came the most memorable day in my life -- I got married in 1972 and gave birth to a son one year later. Although this brought much joy into our lives, we also had a lot of worries. I think this was the biggest challenge I have ever faced in my life. How was I to feed my son with milk?How was I to know which foods were suitable with rice flour soup in order to get the best nutrition for the baby?What changes did I have to make to the diet as the baby grew rapidly from month to month?
Fortunately, the radio came to my rescue. There were programmes on the family, baby care and even delicious recipes for cooking. I made notes of the important points with the help of Braille. I also picked up a lot of tips from the newspapers which were read to me by my relatives. All this information I put down in Braille so that I could commit them to memory later.
My husband was a blind wounded soldier and he was also my first Braille teacher. Indeed, it was Braille that helped to strengthen the bond of love between us and to fasten our life together. My husband discovered that we could borrow Braille books from the library of the blind association. And so when darkness came at the end of each day, I would read fairy tales to my son and he would fall fast asleep. These were really some of the happiest moments of my life. After reading, I would feel so relaxed and I would have many beautiful dreams.
When I had some free time, I would help my husband prepare his lesson plans for teaching in the class-room. It was considerably hard work for me but I was glad that I was able to contribute to my husband's teaching career because he succeeded in getting a promotion.
On the other hand, my husband gave me a lot of encouragement to improve in my Braille so that I could become a Braille teacher for the blind. With his assistance, I was eventually appointed as a Braille teacher for new blind members of the association. It truly brought me much joy and I felt privileged to be a guide and friend to so many blind people.
My husband passed away six years ago due to old age and ill health. Nevertheless, he has left behind very beautiful and precious memories for me to treasure. I particularly remember and cherish our first braille lessons together.
Now all my three children are grown up and they have got married. They are living as harmonious couples with their own families and children. I feel very strong emotions deep within me and I know that I owe my happiness to Louis Braille. Because of his marvellous invention, blind persons like me are able to escape from the darkness. Indeed, Braille has made it possible for the blind to reach out for the light of knowledge and so find meaning in living.
For the blind in Vietnam, Louis Braille will for ever remain in our memory. For his contribution, he deserves worldwide fame, appreciation and gratitude.

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