Saturday, January 31, 2009

Catching & controlling the time.........

Recently Dat mentioned to me that his watch had broken. He very politely asked if I could possibly find him a Braille watch in Australia as the Braille watch he has had since he was 13yrs old had broken. He was really lost without it and they are not available in Vietnam. He told me he really needs it as it is important for him to control the time!

A watch is so much more than a time piece to a blind person, chatting to Dat as we go about our travels we see how it tells him so much more than the time. How long has he been on the bus? How close to his destination is he? Has he finished his lesson? Has the sun set?...... etc. etc.
As you can see in the photo Dat was obviously delighted as he became acquainted with his new watch. He asked me to describe it to him, I began with ….
“Well, it’s a nice deep blue watchband with a silver watch face ”
Mmmm, Dat has been blind since the age of one and has no idea of colours! We then chatted about how to describe the actual shade of blue and after a while we settled on “ well, it’s darker than the sky and yet lighter than the ocean – and with the bright silver it’s a very handsome watch” he was quite pleased with that description and announced.
“Well, now I am a handsome man, with a handsome watch”
We not only managed to get a new watch for Dat, we also picked one up for Quan and each of the three children.
We had a lovely afternoon with Quan at a nice little place beside the lake. Quan had a great time catching up with his good friend Nam and meeting a few of Dats friends. It was so nice to see him in a social setting with other young people. Dat thoroughly enjoyed playing Cat & Mouse with Quan and the new watch – quite hilarious to observe two young blind guys teasing each other with something neither one could see!

We had a lot of fun giving the kids the watches, they were delighted. While Brian adjusted the wristbands to fit their tiny wrists, Dat carefully explained to them how they lift the glass over the face of the watch so they can tell the time by touch. Watching them gently feel each of the points around the dial and the second and hour hands was really quite lovely. Once again the photos speak for themselves.

As we walked up the alley away from the kids home I said to Dat “Well they were certainly very happy to receive their new watches, don’t you think?” Dat turned to me and said.....

“Of course they are happy Alison, for now they can control time, it cannot run away from them anymore”

kind regards

Alison & Rose


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Chuc Mung Nam Moi – Happy New Year

Tết (Lunar New Year) is a very special celebration throughout Vietnam and there are a lot of traditional customs practiced during Tết, like visiting a person's house on the first day of the new year (xông nhà), wishing New Year's greetings, giving lucky money in red envelopes to children and Cumquat trees or gift baskets to adults, it’s all an important part of the festivities.

Dat represented ACCV and took our Tet gifts around to the different people we support, he thoroughly enjoyed his Santa-like role and the gifts were very gratefully received.

Little Tuan enjoyed receiving a box of choco pies and a lucky money envelope along with 5kg of rice for he and his grandmother.

Thao is doing really well in her medical studies and she is looking forward to the Tet break to spend some time at home with her mother. She was very happy to receive her small Tet gift and lucky money envelope.

Ms Lan and the children were also delighted to receive their Tet gifts, I can’t help but think of the shy, anxious young people we met last year – when you compare them to these beaming grins!

A little side note – Thuong is wearing glasses even though she is completely blind. And the reason is because they make her look .... ‘more graceful and fashionable!’ ....

It’s so lovely to see that she is now concerned about fashion and her appearance rather than about where they will live or how they will survive.

Thank you! – This is what your support achieves – it changes lives and puts smiles on faces.

We wish you all the very best for the year of the Buffalo!

Kind regards

Alison & Rose


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Latest News!

Hello everyone,

The New Year is now well under way and it’s already shaping up to be a busy one for ACCV. Rose and I have just returned from a rather impromptu trip to Hanoi. We went primarily to deal with permit applications and other administrative matters, but it soon became so much more....

We enjoyed a lovely Christmas visit with the blind children, they are doing really well, Thanh and Hieu are happy at school and Thuong is really enjoying her IT course. They are nicely settled and thanks to Ms Lan, Brian & Dat they are well taken care of.
With each trip we look forward to seeing Quan and we wonder about his latest updates. This young man is happily re-building his life, and it’s so lovely to see. Along with his work and social life he is now enthusiastically pursuing an education. We were able to visit him at his school, ..... that was an interesting experience.
The school is housed in the absolute heart of Hanoi, during the week it is a regular high school and on weekends they accept blind students. It is the only way for them to obtain an education and as evidenced by Dat it can certainly lead to university entrance. What we didn’t realise was the absolute challenge that faces both students and teachers (aside from surviving the traffic to get there!)
In the first class we walked into we recognised ‘Ching’, one of the girls who did the massage course alongside Quan last year. We had a nice chat and she proudly told us that like Quan, she is also working full time and studying on weekends. We actually met three other students from the course, and each of them talked about their new life which included working full time in different centres, and attending school to further their education. It was a lovely bonus to see firsthand how their lives have been completely turned around.

With Dat as interpreter, we had a pleasant chat with the students, even though they face incredible challenges, they really want an education. During the conversation I noticed that some of the students had A4 black Braille boards, similar to those we provided for Quan and the other students, while others had very small, plastic versions (almost like something out of a happy meal) when I enquired as to why they didn’t have the black ones the response was a very clear ‘no money’. I then asked a young girl if I could have a look at the ‘exercise book’ she was using to record the teachers words.

My heart sank as I realised it was in fact bits of old calendars, ripped into pieces and taped together to fashion a notebook. I turned to the teacher and asked if I could have a look at a text book, I was totally unprepared for the response .... “we don’t have any textbooks’ ......
There are 68 blind students, and not one text book! – it was a year 10 chemistry class. As a teacher I cannot comprehend how you could possibly teach blind students without any classroom resources.

So the plan for ACCV 2009 – education & resources for blind students! (funding is a minor detail! )

Talking of education, we are very close to beginning our first English Language course for blind students. It is all very exciting! This will open up a whole new world for these people, including job prospects that were previously way out of their league. ACCV team members Elizabeth & Juliette have worked tirelessly with me to develop a course and curriculum of the highest standard, they are doing an incredible job!

This course will provide young blind people with everything that is available to their sighted, privileged counterparts in the private language schools, including fully certified and trained teachers, excellent teachers aides/ translators and all the required academic material .

This is the beginning of a wonderful endeavour for ACCV and with your continued support we can completely change the lives of many young blind people – Hanoi alone has 29 Blind associations.

And a little side bonus – Quan is a student in the very first English language course!

Kind Regards

Alison & Rose


Friday, January 16, 2009

Working together.........

I happened to snap this lovely photo on a recent visit to Hanoi.

It really speaks volumes of how well Dat and Brian work together in Vietnam. They regularly meet up and make sure that the people we are supporting are well taken care of

....... and they do such a great job.

We had just finished a visit to Brians school - we spent a very pleasant couple of hours talking to the kids about who we are and what we do.
Dat of course held the floor .......... the kids loved him!


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Quan, a life interrupted – now resumed.

Quan once told me that he really enjoyed going to school when he was younger, before he lost his sight at age ten. His education came to an abrupt end at the same time as his illness took hold. In particular he enjoyed reading, so he was excited at the prospect of learning Braille, for a while there he was constantly reading, he had a lot of catching up to do! He also enjoyed all other aspects of attending school, he believes education is very important.

As you all know, Quan spent many years with his life on hold, it has only been this last year that he has slowly resumed living a regular life. He really has gone from strength to strength, he has a lovely home and support network at the Blind Association where he works. The folks that run the centre are genuinely nice people who really care for the staff, he’s very happy.

During our October trip we were enjoying lunch with Quan and other staff members when we were asked if we could provide him with a digital voice recorder. When we enquired as to why he would need one, Quan smiled broadly and announced that he has gone back to school!

This is another huge step in Quan re-building his life – we were amazed and delighted for him. With a very proud grin he told us that he travels into Hanoi on weekends and attends classes all day Saturday and Sunday. He needs to record his teacher during the class so that he can replay his lessons that night and write his notes in Braille!

We very happily purchased the recorder for him.

It has become a wonderful observation to watch Quan’s life come together piece by piece. This is certainly another important step for him.

Recently, Dat and Anh paid him a visit at his school and kindly sent me an email along with a few photos.

Anh said;

“OMG I can’t believe Quan, he looks so good! He used to be so quiet and now he talks to everyone and starts jokes with Dat and his friends. I can’t believe that he goes to school every weekend by himself”.

Yes!! ..... Quan’s story continues.

Thank you.