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THE NEW YORKER
The Mind's Eye: what the blind see
A German Voyager's Bold Vision for Tibet's Blind
A vision of hope
XINHUA NEWS AGENCY (October/30/2003)
German "Helen Keller" helps Tibetan blind children out of darkness
LHASA, October 30 (CEIS) - For their work in setting up
rehabilitation and training center for the blind, Sabriye Tenberken and
Kronenberg, a couple respectively from Germany and the Netherlands, are
known and respected by the people in Lhasa, capital of southwest
Tibet Autonomous Region.
To many people's surprise, Sabriye herself lost her
she was twelve. With her husband's help, however, she has helped more
30 visually-challenged Tibetan children find hope in their dark world
"I caught an eye disease when I was nine years old and
worse when I was 12 and I almost couldn't see anything," said Sabriye,
was later sent to study in a special school for the blind.
"That was a really tough time for me. But living and
learning with other children just like me, I gradually realized that an
eye defect is not something that cannot be overcome," said Sabriye, who
finally not only completed the study in the special school but also
entered a university in Bonn, majoring in central Asia studies.
"Just because you are blind, you are not stupid and your
hands are not useless" - that was the belief Sabriye gradually adopted,
which now she is trying to convey to her Tibetan students.
In 1997, Sabriye came as a tourist to Lhasa, where she
met her life-long companion, Paul, as well as some local children who
were suffering from the same experience she did in her childhood.
"Since then, I made a decision to stay here and help
these children to have education," she said. One year later, Sabriye
and Paul gave up their jobs and settled down in Lhasa. In May of 1998,
the couple set up a small special school for local visually impaired
At the beginning, there were only six students aged from
six to twelve, who Sabriye and Paul finally found from several remote
counties in Tibet.
"Before 1998, Tibet had not set up a school specially
impaired children," according to Wangqen Geleg, deputy director-general
the Tibetan association for the disabled. "The foreign couple's action
inspired those who are engaged in the disabled relief work in Tibet."
In 2000, with the support of Braille without Borders, an
international charity organization for the blind, and a Tibetan
association for the disabled, Sabriye and Paul established the Tibetan
Rehabilitation and Training Center for the Blind and the students
increased to 30.
Entering the center, people are surprised to find out
that all the students can fluently speak three languages - Chinese,
English and Tibetan.
In a classroom, Dainzin and his classmates are learning
massage skills. Dainzin said that he has been learning massage for
nearly three years and the center was helping them to set up a massage
"Because they can not see anything, it is more important
for them to master some skills. This lets them know they have the
ability to develop the responsibility towards themselves and towards
society," said Sabriye.
In the center, the children not only receive the same
basic education as they would in the ordinary primary and middle
schools in Tibet but also have some professional training, like
massage, playing musical instruments and weaving, which are suitable
for the visually-challenged people.
Chilai, a 13 year-old boy who has loved music since his
childhood, was reluctant to communicate with others in the early days
after he came to the center. No more than three months later, however,
he and another three children became "super singing stars" after being
taught by the center's professional music teacher.
In addition, several students graduated from the center
in June of this year and stepped on the way to the next stop of their
life, according to Wangqen Geleg.
Among the graduates, Yoindain and three other children,
who are more proficient in English listening and speaking, went to
study in a normal school this year.
Another two brothers, Doje and Qamba, who used to live
local government's relief fund, have just opened a teahouse at their
after a three-year training in the center.
"The villagers were surprised and we feel proud and
confident. And we would like to say 'thanks' to the center, and
especially, to Sabriye and Paul," said the brothers.
For their prominent contribution to the project of
assisting the visually impaired people in Tibet, Sabriye and Paul were
awarded with knight medals from the Queen of the Netherlands by the
Netherlands ambassador to China, who made a special trip to Lhasa on
Oct. 7 of this year.
"We are content with our life here because we are doing
job we love," said the couple.