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Erik Weihenmayer



Vision Textiles

 Annual report 2007

Dear friends and supporters,

It was the 19th of September 2007. The suit-cases for Germany were already packed – however only our passports with the re-entry visas and the long promised extension of our agreement were still missing. This made us a bit nervous. What would happen if we did not get an extension of the agreement? Of course the training centre for the blind should at some time stand on its own feet, preferably sooner than later.

These thoughts ran through our minds on the morning of the 19th of September 2007 and we decided to act. Together with Wangchen Geleg, the vice-president of our government counterpart the "Tibet Disabled Person's Federation" we invited the head of the Foreign Affairs Office of the Tibet Autonomous Region to visit the school. In this discussion he told us, that he is always happy to visit both the BWB projects in Lhasa and Shigatse. "I like to talk to the blind students, they are intelligent and very motivated. And then I am happily surprised that everything runs well even when the foreign supervisors are not here." This remark was taken as a compliment. But could it also mean that we now were regarded as redundant? We hardly dared to ask the question about prolongation of the contract. When we did however, The head of the Foreign Affairs Office told us: "Of course you will get an extension, I will work on it right away.”

Schueler der Mause Klasse

Students of the "Mouse class"

Not everything in our lives works out as smoothly as on this day! In only a few hours everything was arranged so the previously prepared five-year contract could be signed.

A toast was made with a glass of Great Wall wine to celebrate the new era in which we shall be working together. And within an hour, the students and colleagues organized a Momo Feast. Kyila, a 22 year old blind former student, now a member of the management team in the school explained her joy: "it is not as though we can’t run the project when you are not here! Yes, at the beginning we felt sometimes a bit challenged, but in the meantime we grew with the task. We are not nervous anymore, to go as representatives of BWB to important meetings, to lead high-ranking delegations through the project or to do television or newspaper interviews. We are also a little proud that you trust us with all that! But it is nice to know that both of you come by now and then!"

Lhasa - music students
A well-known Chinese mountain climber, Mr. Wangshi had become enthusiastic about Gyurmis desire to study piano and singing. Thereupon he organized a musical training course at Lhasa University not only for 13 year old Gyurmi, but also for the particularly talented singer 20-year old Kelsang Tashi. After conclusion of this training, both shall be qualified for advanced courses in mainland China.

Gyendsen travels through Asia

"Are you nervous?" I asked Gyendsen, when Nyima and I said goodbye to him at Lhasa airport. "No, I am not!! Why? Should I?!" I believe, I would have been mighty nervous if I were to travel all alone to several different countries and on top of it would be “flying blind” the first time in my life!

But Gyendsen takes everything with an enormous amount of fun and ease.

Gyendsen, a student of the first generation, was selected from a large number of world-wide potential candidates for the IKEDA ICT SCHOLARSHIP 2007. The eight internationally selected blind and visually impaired students were then trained for some weeks in computer techniques in Malaysia before travelling to Japan. In Tokyo, Gyendsen participated in a screening of the documentary film “Blindsight”. From Japan we received news from a visitor who wrote: “After the film Gyendsen was “stormed” by beautiful Japanese young women. He pulled the Q&A session off like a veteran celebrity.”..Gyendsen went blind at age nine after an eye infection. His parents could not resign themselves to this stroke of fate for their boy.

Gyendsen teaching Computer-Class

Against the advice of the teachers they took him out of school and tried to hide him away from village activities. "We had pinned all our hopes on him", his mother said in an interview in the film BLINDSIGHT. "But look at him now, he is completely useless." Nine years after joining the BWB projects, Gyendsen is the only one from his region, who has ever been abroad, can speak three languages and can work with computers. At present he is running the computerised Braille book production department and teaches computer classes to the blind students

Massage trainees in Beijing:
The Chinese organization "Chinese Disabled Person's Federation" invited five blind students and a teacher for a comprehensive five-month course in medical massage to Beijing. After their return they expressed their enthusiasm:
Lobsang (18 years): "we learned much and made great new friends."
Dachung (17 years): "We were treated special because we were the only 6 Tibetans.
But the best thing was the journey on the train to and from Beijing! I will never forget that!"
Zering Yudon (15 years): "In the beginning I had some difficulties with the Chinese language, but then it went better!"
Dawa Tashi (18 years): "When we were bored, we played football. But there was no ball with a bell inside as we have in Lhasa. So we played with a plastic bottle with a few pebbles inside."
Tendsin (14 years): "it was great that our teacher Mr. Zenor la was with us. He made it a lot easier for me to dare to speak Chinese."

All students passed the exams and received a national license in medical massage.

- Story competition and radio play
In May 2007 the teachers organized a story writing competition. The students were asked to write a story on one of the following topics: Animal, human or ghost stories. In the category "animal stories" fourteen year old Jampa Kelsang won with his story of The Tiger and the Deer. The story is about a Deer that in a cunning way defeats a strong Tiger.

In the category ghost stories, five year old Nyima Punzog won with his remarkable story with the even more remarkable title"The Ghost in the Glass Bathroom”.

Winner of the category "human stories" is the seventeen year old Dachung with a love story titled The Unforgettable Story. It tells about a blind boy and the complications that arise when he falls in love with a sighted girl. The Unforgettable Story was made into an English radio play. The students of the BWB project act as speakers and musicians.

- German as the third foreign language
Yudon and Kyila, two of our former pupils, learn German. Their reason: "More and more people in Tibet speak English so they thought it would be beneficial to learn another language, also to guide German tourists through the project!”.” German sounds beautifully macho, a little like the East Tibetan Khampa language." They say.

- Blind students in the government middle school.
Last summer Nyima, Bungdso, Sonam Banden and Kajamkja graduated from basic elementary school. They all had highest marks in their classes so it was thought that entering middle school should not be a problem. However the education department was very reluctant to accept blind students at that level. Only after the teachers of the elementary school and their former classmates put in a good word for Nyima and Bungdso they were finally accepted. At present all four students rank among the top 5 best students of the entire school!

Sonam & Nyima in 2002
Sonam Bungso & Nyima (in 2002)

- Vocational Training farm in Shigatse/Pelshong
In the autumn of 2007 the construction work of the bio-bakery started. The building is situated next to the scenic duck pond and will feature an organic-bakery, a “saucisserie”, and a small café coffee house. The project has the following background: Our training farm has been growing organic rye, barley and wheat for several years now. Initially we used these crops to feed the trainees and the livestock. It was Padma Wangyal, a Tibetan who has lived and worked in Germany as a baker for many years, who suggested we could add value to the growing of these crops by starting a bakery. He will come to Tibet to train the local staff and students.
This project is supported by the Canada Fund, Tibet Children Fund, a Japanese Foundation, The Spencer Foundtion and the Bio-Bakery "Maerkisches Landbrot" in Berlin. .

Thanks to the hard work of all staff and trainees in the Shigatse farm, the compost production unit and mini-greenhouses were completed in 2007. BWB’s method of compost production takes mother natures one year cycle and reduces it to one month. The person most excited by this compost production is our resident Tibetan farmer. Farmers being sceptical by nature, Tibetan farmers for survival reasons are extremely sceptical. Tibetan farmers have relied on a traditional method of farming for over a millennium in one of the most inhospitable points on the planet. So when these farmers get excited about a new method you can imagine that BWB is pleasantly encouraged.

Neubau in Kerala
Ecofriendly construction in KERALA

- India/Kerala. "The International Institute for Social Entrepreneurs"

BWB is setting up the International Institute for Social entrepreneurs [IISE] where participants (age 18+) who have the right initiative, motivation and skills will be selected, trained and empowered.

Over a one year's course the participants will be practically trained in management, fundraising, PR activities, project planning, computer technology and English, communication and soft skills. After this training they will be in a position to speak for themselves and help to change the attitudes towards marginalized groups through setting up social and/or environmental projects in their own regions or countries.

Visually impaired people who have overcome obstacles in life are problem solvers! They have empathy towards social problems. Therefore the IISE will especially focus on participants who are blind and/or partially sighted.

Thanks to the hard work of Tigi Philip, our local administrative director, Raja Bhadresh, a trustee of the Charity charity-Trust "Braille of the Without Borders" and a number of friends and supporters, the center in Kerala slowly takes shape.

IISE is located in the pristine purity of a little village by the side of the tranquil Vellayani lake in Trivandrum Kerala. The campus is built in an environmental friendly ethnic style based on the concepts of the renowned architect, the late Laurie Baker and implemented by Sajan of Costford.

BWB has incorporated rain water harvesting ,biogas ,solar/wind energy and waste management systems along with ecosan toilets. The idea is to make this project a model for all future institutions of its kind.

The international training programme will start at the beginning of 2009. Until then the following activities are planned:
- Finishing the buildings
- Landscaping of the property
- Search for staff: national and international. (Please check our website for more details)
- Search for participants
- From the summer 2008 onward seminars for local blind people in computer- , mobility and orientation- training and daily living skills will be held.

The costs of training for participants in the first and second year will be financed by Braille without borders and other sponsors. While we have received many applications so far, we are still looking for more. If you know any blind and/or visually impaired motivated people, please do inform them about the IISE initiative and let them contact us. More information on the course and application forms can be found at

- Others
"the seventh year" is now available as a talking-book in German. In the autumn of 2007 it was produced by “Luebbe Audio Verlag”. It is a unique product since the book was totally read by blind people. Four blind German children represented the Tibetan characters of Kyila, Tendsin, Gyendsen and Bungzo and Sabriye read her own voice. Hoerbuch das 7e Jahr
- News on the film "Blindsight"

Set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Himalayas, Blindsight follows the gripping adventure of six Tibetan teenagers who set out to climb the 23,000 foot Lhakpa Ri on the north side of Mount Everest.

The film has won several international awards and will premiere in the USA in March 2008.
BLINDSIGHT has been shown in cinemas in Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Japan and Australia. In Japan there was even a screening for princess Kiko and princess Mako. It was the first time ever that members of the Royal Family went to the cinema.

More information: and



- Thank you.

Dear friends and supporters,

Nothing we have achieved so far could have been realized without your support, confidence and patience. On behalf of all the blind students and all the staff members, we would like to say THANK YOU VERY MUCH for your interest in and support for BWB!

We would appreciate your sharing this newsletter with family, friends and others interested. More information on BWB can be fond at:

With very best wishes,

Sabriye and Paul

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