Friday, October 01, 2010

Be The Change

{Photo copyright BrailleWithoutBorders.org}
A few years ago, I traveled to Tibet, where I had the honor of visiting Braille Without Borders (BWB), an NGO that teaches Braille and vocational skills to blind and hearing-impaired children in the Tibetan region. Many in Tibetan society believe blindness is punishment for doing something wrong in a past life. As a result, many of these children are shunned by the public, some even their families. BWB’s work has changed the lives of countless Tibetan children, and their story is nothing short of incredible.

Founder Sabriye Tenberken, a blind woman from Germany (and future Nobel Peace Prize nominee), traveled on horseback - alone - throughout the region to investigate to the possibility of providing training for blind and visually impaired Tibetans. On her journey, she met Dutch engineer Paul Kronenberg, now her husband and co-founder of BWB. There was no previous study for blind students; therefore, she had to develop her own Tibetan script for the blind with the help of a Tibetan scholar.

Sabriye and Paul’s organization began in 1998 with one elementary school for six children. Today they run a preparatory school for children ages 5-15, vocational training (including medical massage and physiotherapy), and the Self-Integration Program, which gives children the self-confidence and base knowledge to integrate themselves into society. In addition, they have now ventured into India, creating the International Institute for Social Entrepreneurs (IISE), which offers leadership training for future social innovators who want to make the world a better place. 

BWB is also featured in the award-winning documentary Blindside, which recounts how Sabriye, Paul, and six of their students attempt to summit Lhakpa Ri, the 23,000 foot peak beside Mount Everest.

I was truly moved by their story and felt privileged to see their work in person. I feel they wholly embody Mahatma Ghandi’s appeal to “be the change you want to see in the world.”

There’s so much more to learn about BWB. You’ll find more information on their programs and students on their web site. If you’d like to donate towards their inspiring work, please click here.

Who inspires you to "be the change"?

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