ĦInternational Runner-Up:@Group B (under 25 years old)

Braille in My Life
By Mr. Vu Van Tuan
(17 years old, Vietnam)

"We are rich with two eyes and poor without hands" and "our eyes are the windows of our soul". These sayings make me remember how important is the gift of sight.

After losing my sight, I faced many difficulties. My life sank into the dark shadows as I could not longer see the sunlight or the faces of my loved ones. I knew I was a great burden to my family and society as I spent my days and nights like an invalid just eating and sleeping. I was afraid to step out of the gate because people would tease and despise me. And yet I felt such pain, like thousands of needles piercing my skin, as I heard the drum-beat and the sound of children calling to one another in the nearby village school.

Then, a sudden change came to my life one day in March 2000 when I received a letter from the Thanh Hoa Blind Association offering me the opportunity to study Braille. Tears of joy flowed from my sightless eyes as I thought of the beautiful life ahead of me.

At school, I put much effort into my studies and endeavoured to maintain goodwill with everyone. Thus, after studying for six months, I became fluent in the use of Braille. However, being a student in an integrated programme proved to be not so simple as I had thought. I was often conscious of people staring at me and rather suspicious that people were spreading false rumours about me. I was from a poor family and so I had no confidence to develop a close friendship with anybody. I, therefore, had no friends to share my sorrows and joys and I felt quite home-sick for my family and friends. I thought of dropping out from school.

However, after thinking very hard, I realised that I should not be ungrateful to my parents, my teachers and especially to the one who invented the system of six dots, Louis Braille. The Braille alphabet had been invented so that we blind people could go to school and become part of society. These thoughts enabled me to overcome all my difficulties.

Thus, Braille became my life companion and it enabled me to do many things. I was able to record my past memories and save a vast store of knowledge in Braille. For example, I used Braille to record the information I heard on radio regarding cultivation and the application of breeding techniques in agricultural production. I shared this knowledge with my family, thereby helping them to improve in their economic performance. Before this, my family was leading a very hard life.

Thanks to Braille and to my teachers, I was able to be an excellent pupil for seven years successively at the Yam Trung Secondary School in the Yen Dinh district. I was an active volunteer and obtained certificates of merit and awards for many competitions such as "The 70 Years of Glorious History of the Vietnamese Communist Party" and "Our Pioneer Youth Union".

No longer do I spend my days just sitting and eating. Now I have so many close friends which require the use of three to four digits to count them. I know that I owe my success to my parents and teachers whose loving care had pulled me out of the darkness and enabled me to overcome my inferiority complex. But, most of all, it is Braille that has made all the miracles happen in my life and it is Braille that will help to turn my dreams into reality.

Blessed with Braille

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