¡Highly Commended:@Group A (over 26 years old)
Braille in My Life
By Mr. Nguyen Trung Thanh
(46 years old, Vietnam)


In 1967, when I was a fourth grade pupil, my house was bombed in an air-raid by the U.S.A. The heat of the bomb injured my eyes and caused the corneas to degenarate. There was no cure and my eyes got weaker and weaker until I became totally blind. I felt such pain in my heart and my eyes were soaked with tears as I thought of my fate.

One day, a girl from a nearby village came into my life. She brought to me true love, sympathy and understanding. Soon we got married and we had a simple celebration for our wedding. We spent the next ten happy years living on our own in a 12 x 2 metre poorly furnished house. Four children were born to us and we worked hard to keep them and ourselves alive.

Unfortunately, my wife became ill after giving birth too many times and because of the hard work. So my eldest daughter had to leave school in order to wander around with me to earn our living as beggars.

One rainy afternoon in the summer of 1992 while we were begging in the Quang Binh Province, we had to seek shelter in a small kiosk. As we rested, I heard the keeper of the kiosk reading a story written by Pham Ba entitled "My Name Is Xiem Hue". The characters and other descriptions in the story kept me from dozing off; I began to realise that there may be many kind people in this world; but there were also many unlucky people struggling for a better life and cherishing an undying hope. As for me, I still had my brain; I did not have to live my whole life as a beggar just because I was blind. How could I allow my daughter to live her life in illiteracy and bitterness?

With these thoughts in mind, I was determined to return home in order to face life's hardships as I felt that would be more bearable than being a beggar. My decision turned out to be right because, soon after my return, the Blind People's Association of the Nghi Loc District was established and I was accepted as a member. I was able to contribute to my family's income by making bamboo tooth-picks and brooms. The association also gave me a loan for planting and animal husbandry.

Most important of all, I had the chance to attend a class for the blind. At first it was very hard for me to feel the Braille signs as my fingers were used to hard labour and they were full of calosities. Nevertheless, I told myself that there was no way but to deal with this challenge if there was to be a brighter future for me and my family. Thus, tears of joy fell from my face when I touched Braille for the first time.

Every night I would put the Doi Moi Newspaper at my bed-side so that I could read it as soon as I awoke. After practising hard for two months, I could use Braille skilfully.

I read all kinds of books, including Science and Technology. I adapted the knowledge and techniques for effective planting and farming, thereby improving my family's income and standard of living. With Braille, I could also help my children in their school-work. Corresponding with blind friends in Braille enabled me to share experiences with them and to bring encouragement to one another.

Soon I began to develop my writing skills. I wrote about the heroism of our soldiers in the Liberation War, the constant changes and developments in my hometown, and the struggles of the disabled in Vietnam. I travelled hundreds of kilometres as a writer and my works were broadcast on radio and published in the newspapers. I received many literary prizes from the Vietnam Broadcasting Station and the Nghe An Newspaper.

With support from publishing houses, I was able to produce several books, including a book of short stories, a children's story-book, a collection of poems, and a book of critical essays on Literature. At this stage, I am in the process of completing a story of considerable length entitled "Aspirations"; the purpose of this book is to show what the disabled can achieve with will-power.

With the savings I have made, my family can now live in a comfortable and well furnished house. My book-shelf has more than one thousand Braille volumes and my garden is full of fruit-trees.

It is Braille that has played such an important role in my life. It has enabled me to overcome my inferiority complex and has brought me step by step closer to the whole community as its integrated member. Indeed, the work of Louis Braille has been a source of light for me and I hope it will also shine into the lives of other blind people everywhere.

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