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No Limits...For the Blind

Posted Mar 05 2010 12:00am

No Limits...For the Blind

Sabriye Tenberken, a young German woman from Cologne, is pictured above in Tibet. She has been blind since age 13. Here is what was written about her in Time Asia :

"She rides horses to crisscross Tibet's forbidding passes and plateaus. When talking, she looks you straight in the eye and describes things by their colors: the yellow mushrooms or the azure lake. And to greet a visitor, she bounds down a flight of steps in her boarding school for visually impaired children in Tibet's capital Lhasa. In the playground Tenberken points to 15-year-old Ngudup, who is playing a song for her on his guitar. "For 11 years," she says, "he was locked up in a dark room."

Tenberken, 34, has brought light into Ngudup's life and into the lives of the other 48 children at her school. She and her staff don't just teach the kids Tibetan, Chinese and English, and practical skills like making beds and operating computers. They also give their charges dignity. Because of its high-altitude exposure to the sun, Tibet has unusually high rates of eye disease, and because of the prevalence of Buddhist beliefs, blindness is often regarded as punishment for misdeeds in a previous life. When Tenberken first went to Tibet seven years ago, she discovered that Tibetans had no idea what to do with their blind children. "It was depressing," she recalls. "We met kids who had been tied to a bed for years so that they didn't hurt themselves. Some couldn't walk, because their parents hadn't taught them."

Blind from a retinal disease by the time she was 13, Tenberken, who is German, studied for a master's degree in Tibetology at Bonn University and created Tibetan braille. She applied to various nongovernmental organizations to do fieldwork, but none would give her a job. So, along with her Dutch partner, Paul Kronenberg, 35, an engineer, Tenberken headed to Lhasa, waded through reams of red tape and was finally granted permission to open her school, raising the seed money by selling her autobiography. Says Tenberken: "We want to show the kids that they don't have to be ashamed. We want them to stand up and say, 'I am blind, not stupid!' They need to be proud of themselves, gather the strength to cope with discrimination and go out there as messengers for what they've learned." Read the entire article here

In the video interview below, Tenberken's partner refers to one of the blind children in the school who wanted to become a taxi driver. A blind taxi driver? No, he soon realized that would not work. But a blind owner of a company that owns a fleet of taxis? Yes!!!

The video embedded below is 17 minutes long. It's an interview of Sebriye Tenberken and her partner about Braille Without Borders. Unfortunately the image quality is not good, but if you can just listen (and the sound also leaves a bit to be desired), you will be inspired by this courageous young woman who chose not only not to give up, but to help others who had no one else to help them!



If you have any diffculty viewing this video, please click here to go to youtube in order to see it there

Below is Tenberkens' autobiography, as well as a link to the DVD of the movie , which filmed an ascent of the Hamalayas by a group of blind teens. By seeing such courage in the face of adversity, we are inspired in our own lives.  Also read Language Affects Our Thinking  to see how another exceptional young woman - Aimee Mullin - encourages us to emulate her valour.

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