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"Providing tools for living and learning for blind young people in Africa"


Building Awareness amongst Non-African Youngsters

It is a very rare and special occasion when a blind student in Africa receives a letter, but it is now happening that several times a year braille letters are being posted to every blind student in a particular African school. They have been written by young people of a similar age, and several different nationalities. This happens because frequently during the year, students from Europe and the United States of America visit Radstock in the South-West of England.

The Europeans, coming from France, Belgium, Germany and Czechoslovakia , to date, are here on school study trips. Their time spent in the area is divided between sightseeing and English lessons. Rosalie Lees, director of Blindaid Africa, teaches some of their classes using integrated methodology, often calling on her experience with Blindaid to add interest to the lessons. The students respond well, and become more confident in speaking English. At the same time, they learn about Louis Braille, and the way in which his invention is being used world-wide, as a means of tactile communication for the blind. After a few lessons, and using a very basic technique, most of these young Europeans manage to write a letter to a blind African of their own age, in English grade 1 braille.

Several groups of young Americans arrive in the Norton-Radstock area each year. They are participating in the Student Ambassador Pprogramme of “People to People”, an international awareness and travel organisation, instituted by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1950's. As part of their international experience, each of these groups which visit the Radstock area during their three week West European tour participates in a half-day braille tutorial. These sessions can be quite intense, as the braille is English based and there is not a problem with language. Some of the groups have been well prepared in adAmerican students at a braille tutorial in Radstockvance and arrive with gifts to be sent to be sent to blind youngsters in Africa. The American students show a keen interest. Most write letters enthusiastically in stage 1 braille, copying each letter from a chart which they are free to take away with them to help them decipher any braille replies they might receive. Some who resolve to study braille seriously on their return to the United States, are given the relevant information.

The blind African recipients of these letters sent from international visitors to Radstock, are thrilled. Some of them are able and happy to reply using a typewriter which has been sent to them from England. Stephen Ngwani wrote from Zimbabwe:

“Some people say it’s useless to give a typewriter to a blind. I say they are wrong. With these machines that you send, madam, we can now write ink print documents all around the world.”