After tearing her cornea in a frightening accident, writer Rosemary Mahoney developed a “morbid fear” of going blind; surely, she thought, death was preferable to perpetual darkness. A magazine assignment about a training school for blind children in Lhasa, Tibet, however, piqued her curiosity about the blind and their world, and she wanted to “meet blind people, spend time with them, to get to know them, to find out how they think, to see how they live in the world.” In For the Benefit of Those Who See, Mahoney shares her experiences at two remarkable training schools for the blind founded by Sabriye Tenberken and Paul Kronenberg.
In Tibet blind people are believed to be cursed, they are shunned and the children denied an education. At Braille Without Borders, the first school for the blind in Tibet, the children learn Braille, Chinese, English, Computers, and Mathematics, as well as learning how to navigate in the world. To Rosemary’s surprise, she discovered that most of the children were exuberant, even joyful, and did not regret their blindness; after all, they were being educated, they now had a future, whereas seeing children did not have these opportunities.
The future is also bright at the International Institute for Social Entrepreneurs in southern India, another program founded by Tenberken and Kronenberg, this one geared towards blind adults who want to improve the lives of others. At this year-long training program, students come from many different countries – Liberia, Kenya, Tibet, to name just a few – and learn how to run not-for-profit organizations. As a volunteer English teacher, Mahoney meets many students who were marginalized and discriminated against in their countries but now are determined to make life better for other blind people.
The fearless, confident, patient blind students at both these schools teach Rosemary a valuable lesson: vision is just one way to experience the world.