In a small room in Thai Binh, a 10 year old girl, Chi, is learning to read and write. Like many other young children, Chi struggles with sounding out new words and writing them out. The difference is, Chi is visually impaired and she is learning Braille.
Chi was born blind and has never gone to school. Her parents divorced as a young child and her grandmother has been looking after her. As a young child, Chi never had a chance to socialize and make friends. Being visually impaired, her grandmother thought that they had to protect her and that she was unable to learn nor do anything independently. Chi was isolated. When the opportunity arose for Chi to attend classes to prepare her for inclusive education and go to a normal school, it took a great deal of convincing for her grandmother to agree to let Chi participate. Initially, Chi was very shy and nervous as she hadn’t had many friends before. After just a few months, Chi seems like a completely difference person. She is more confident, loves to sing and helps to take care of younger kids who are also visually impaired. “I love it here”, she says. “I have more friends to talk and play with. I have the chance to learn to read and write and find out many things from books. In the future, I want to become a teacher because I want to teach Braille to others who cannot see, just like me.” What a difference the opportunity to learn has made to Chi’s life.
As part of our CROP project (Creating Opportunities for People with Visual Impairment), ADRA in Vietnam launched a Braille literacy class and soft skills training course for 14 children with visual impairment in Thai Binh province, about 100km south-east of Hanoi. Working with the Thai Binh Blind Association, we run a holistic training and education program to prepare the children to attend inclusive schools. This means that these kids are not only taught Braille reading and writing skills and mathematics, but they also develop life skills, such as self-help skills, singing, dancing and special training in orientation and mobility. What’s more, the two teachers leading the classes were participants of our Training of Trainers Braille Literacy programs, so this is a
n great opportunity for them to further develop their teaching skills and give back to the community. After just a few weeks, we witnessed remarkable changes in these kids, especially in their confidence levels and improved ability to communicate with others. This is just the start of a long journey helping children with visual impairment integrate into society.