Highly Commended

"Harvesting Happiness through Braille"

Mr.Salim Harja (47) Indonesia

No road is too steep to pass through,

No ravine is too deep to go down,

No mountain is too high to climb,

No ocean is too big to cross,

When there is a will there is a way,

When there is an effort there is a result,

There are many roads towards Rome.

These lines should be firmly held by people with disabilities in general,and particularly by people who have visual impairments.With a strong spirit and unyielding soul,one will certainly achieve what one desires.

God has created the universe in perfection.No creature has been created meaninglessly.All that happens in this world and all that man experiences is meaningful and purposeful.Alas,too often man cannot understand God's intention.

The first days after I became blind and was not yet introduced to Braille,I felt I was in total darkness,not only visually,but also emotionally.I did not know what to do.I could no longer read,I could no longer study,my activities were extremely limited.Sadness,disappointment,embarrassment,anger and hopelessness all mixed together.It was as if I was in handcuffs.My state of mind continued for a few years.The restlessness and hopelessness went on until finally I met Braille.

Since I was introduced to Braille in a special school for the blind in Surabaya on January 5,1970,the clouds that had covered my sun gradually went away.I was able to study again.I was in grade four at that time.

With Braille,I could read and write just like reading and writing printed characters.A Braille character is formed in a frame of six tactual dots that are composed of two vertical lines of three dots.The size is just right for a fingertip to touch.By combining one or more of the six dots,you can write letters of the alphabet,numbers,punctuation marks or various other symbols.This makes it possible for a blind person to gain a wide range of knowledge.This writing system was invented by Louis Braille,a blind Frenchman who was born on January 4,1809,in Coupvray,about 48 kilometers from Paris.The invention was inspired by the work of Charles Barbier,a French cavalry officer who invented a system of "night writing" that consisted of twelve dots that he used for military purposes.Beyond Louis Braille's life span,his system has been further developed to transcribe non-Latin writing such as Arabic.

To me,Braille has a very deep meaning.It is only natural.Being able to read and write Braille,I could study again in school,a teaching institution that I had left for three years due to my blindness.I don't know what would have happened had I not been introduced to Braille.Certainly I would have remained mentally limited and stunted,dependent,poor,humiliated and the like without being able to do anything about it.With Braille,as well as the slate and stylus with which to write Braille,I had the power to change my life for the better.Braille had enabled me to draw the "grey curtain" that shrouded my future.

Braille has become part of my life.Without it I have no self-confidence.Braille is like a torchlight that illuminates my soul and burns my spirit to achieve happiness in the future.

After graduating from the special school,I continued my studies in an integrated school.The "dot alphabet" enabled me to compete with sighted classmates.After finishing my schooling,I started to work as a teacher in a special school for the blind.Of course Braille is very helpful in performing my teaching job.More than that,Braille has helped me to find my true identity,enabled me to develop myself through independent learning,and has made it possible for me to join some social organizations,and even has enabled me to serve as a member of the executive board.

One unforgettable event that has made Braille so meaningful in my life happened when I was in love with a girl who later became my wife.At that time communication devices were not yet as sophisticated as they are today.I used Braille letters in communicating with her.I was very lucky that she could read and write Braille; she learned it at a teacher's college for special education.I had to use Braille because her parents did not approve of our relationship.Thanks to Braille,eventually we managed to get married.We live happily with our two children.

I owe my happiness to Louis Braille who invented this miracle.I am sure Braille will continue to exist and be beneficial for blind people.It has proved itself to be abreast with the advance of science and technology.

Affiliated Organization: Chairman of the Advisory Board,Indonesian Blind Union,Pertuni,East Java

Career: Teacher,YPAB Special School for the Blind

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