The Magical School of Inspiration

By Paul Sinclair (One World One People) 19/9/00

Hello champions, how is everyone? I am now in Lhasa and on a learning curve, parabolic in nature, y = x2 or something. What a place to be! For now I will try my best to relate another incredible bit of fortune I have just had, to all of you.

For some reason, some Tibetans, especially in rural areas, have come to the terrible misunderstanding that children born blind, are born that way because they must have been very bad in their previous lives.

Blindness is no obstacle for these two young champions learning to type Braille
As a result, they tend to lock their blind children away in dark rooms and keep them chained to their beds. Fortunately for these children, though, there is hope.

I happened to be very privileged to be guided with some friends to an ordinary, plain looking, little house in the middle of a Tibetan area of Lhasa. Inside we met some amazing, wonderful, very affectionate, blind children being cared for by a very special European couple. One of them was a blind German lady who just doesn't seem to understand what the words 'no' or 'you can't' mean. The other, is her very supportive and equally determined, full-sighted, Dutch husband. Through fate, they met and decided to address this problem of Tibetan blind children, no matter what the cost. For two years they have struggled against the Chinese Government. They have found that they get continually frustrated in most things they do, with mountains of red tape. After two years of battling, they have now earnt a modicum of respect from the government and won allies for their cause and have even been allowed, for the moment, to stay indefinitely in Tibet. They have also been featured on Chinese Television and built a reputation through out Tibet.

They have successfully invented a Tibetan version of Braille and now teach blind children to speak, read and type Tibetan, Chinese, English and Maths. To give you an example of what they are achieving, we met one boy named Tetzin, who had spend nine years chained to a bed, before his parents heard about the school and not being able to find enough food to feed him anymore, took him there. After mixing with the other children and learning that he wasn't the only one that was blind, he started to make friends and build some self-confidence. The other children naturally adopted him and began to teach him. They have all been taught to look after each other and the older, more learned, children look after and help teach the younger children. After two years, young Tetzin returned to his village to visit his parents. About the same time, a group of foreigners arrived in the village, but none of them could speak Tibetan. Furthermore none of the villagers could speak any English. So some of the village children pushed Tetzin forward and said 'this guy can speak English'. So Tetzin said ' Hello, my name is Tetzin. I am eleven years old and I am fine thank you.' After this Tetzin was the village hero, because he could do something that none of the other villagers could do.

These children are incredible and just talking and playing with them has taught me a new version of the word 'inspiration'. Down the track, the couple hope to find more of these blind children, educate them and their parents and teach them such livelihoods as Chinese and Tibetan massage and accupressure, herding, book keeping, secretarial skills and crafts.

To anyone who has seen a need in a community and wants to actively do something about it: Take inspiration from this couple and never give up!

That's all for now champions, take care of yourselves.


Making new friends with the inspiring children of the Tibetan Project of the Blind

© One World One People, 24 January 2002
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