WBU-AP (Junior group) Excellent Work
"Louis Braille's Gift of Dots for Life"
Ho Thi Cuc (15, female, Vietnam)
"I have never seen my father; never, never seen my mother!"
Words from the refrain of a pop song sung by many of my friends brought sorrow from the depths of my heart as I tried to repress the tears in my eyes!
My dear blind friends -- we have suffered the same fate as many of you! Both my sister and I have never seen our parents and we have never even heard their voices. That fatal day happened ten years ago -- our parents were stricken by a terrible disease which took their lives and left their two young children in a state of loneliness. At that time, I was five years old while my sister was only two years of age.
We were left in the care of adoptive parents; under their support and protection, our uneventful and unhappy childhood passed by very slowly. Everybody appeared to have black faces and everything looked dark just like the night.
When I was six, I noticed that my friends (who were of the same age as me) had begun going to school. I was puzzled why I could not join them. Why weren't my adoptive parents taking me to school? Did they really love me?
One day I cried out to them, "Mum, dad, I want to go to school just like my friends!"
It came as a shock to me when the reply of my adoptive parents made me keenly aware that I was not a normal person. I felt terrible when I heard them say to my sister and me:
"Both of you are blind. We have insufficient money for your food, let alone sending you to school!
The Pako ethnic minority group in Vietnam is well known for their frank talk. However, my adoptive parents could not have known that it was their words that had brought the realisation to us that we were not "normal" people. Nevertheless, I still could not quite understand the difference between us and the rest of society. Why couldn't we go to school?
Every day, as we had nothing to do, we would go on to the street in front of our house to play. An important change came into our lives when two persons from the Blind Association of the Huong Hoa District suddenly appeared in our village to carry out some business. It was by accident that they saw both of us groping our way on the street.
At the beginning of 2003, they brought both of us to the school at the association. We were surprised to find out that there were so many other blind children there. This was our first time living so far away from home. We began to recognise many different voices and they all spoke a different language from that of our minority group. I could not understand any of the words they spoke.
Fortunately, we discovered that some of the children spoke our language. We were also happy to discover that there were lots of different and interesting sounds around the place. Gradually, with the support of our new friends, we were able to habilitate and to learn the Vietnamese language. As we settled into our new life, I began to realise that much of the noise around us was being made by motor-cycles and motor-cars.
My secret wish had come true. I entered Grade One after having gone through the rehabilitation programme for a year. I was truly fascinated by the little dots on paper which I later learned were known as Braille. They were to become my closest friends throughout the rest of my life. Another surprise hit me when I realised that my teacher was a blind woman.
She tactfully asked me if I was small or bulky and then she gently touched my face. I imagined she was a fairy from the land of fairy tales. She helped me understand that each of us had our own identity and she inspired me to see the marvellous light from within our hearts. Soon I myself began to cherish the dream of becoming a teacher so that I could impart the knowledge of Braille to other blind children.
Indeed, time has flown by very quickly. I am now preparing for Grade Six while my younger sister will be entering Grade Two. How miraculous! Braille may look strange to sighted people, but for my sister and me, those tiny dots are our miracle --the most precious light in our lives!
Thanks to Louis Braille, blind people now have the opportunity to go to school and to make their dreams come true. Life was so wonderful as we spent our days studying in our house at the blind association of QuangTriProvince. Further excitement came for me when I joined sighted students in an integrated programme in a normal school -- it appeared to be so large as my teacher and I walked round the school and I felt my legs growing weary! My sighted friends no longer considered me as strange and they didn't "touch" me any more. Instead, they often comforted and encouraged me and they helped me make much progress.
My dear friends in disability -- this life is very beautiful, isn't it? To my mind, the beauty of disability in general and of blindness in particular lies in the depth of the soul wherein the light shines forth to bring us happiness. This is the light of inspiration that enables us to overcome our difficulties and to turn our weak points into good opportunities. The lyrics of a Vietnamese song say this:"I lost my eyes but I have found my heart".
Truly, I owe a great debt of gratitude to Louis Braille for his great invention. My heartfelt thanks also go to the people at the Blind Association of Huong Hoa District for the invaluable assistance and support they have given to my sister and me. All their efforts have made a difference to our lives by giving us hope for a bright future and a fulfilling career in the years ahead.