I have started this page even though I really have no tangible achievements to date:
I have written about my helping draft an Article in the Constitution of Thailand 2006 in the Sribd.com Thai Constitution http://www.scribd.com/doc/68171582/Thai-Constitution
I grew up in the historic town of Morristown, NJ, famous for its Washington’s HQ National
Historic Park, where the telegraph was perfected by Samuel Morse, and as the home of the
muckraking political cartoonist Thomas Nast. It is also the home of the ‘Seeing Eye’, the
original guide dogs for the Blind, founded in 1929.
Many days, walking home after school, I saw blind persons who had come from all over the world
to my town to train with their new dogs. We were told at school never to bother the dog, the
blind person, or the trainer. But I observed them closely.
So when I had a chance meeting with a Thai blind person on an airplane in Thailand, and offered
my assistance to help him off the plane — who unbeknownst to me was the founder of the largest
foundation for the blind in SE Asia; who gives talks on ‘mainstream education’ for the disabled
at the United Nations in NYC — there was a proclivity.
This is BEFORE I started Braille training in Florida. People in Thailand marveled as to why I
was so comfortable with the blind. In the Buddhist country of Thailand, encountering a blind
person is similar to a ‘black cat across your path’ in the West. It is a sign of bad luck. That
blind person must have done something terrible in a previous lifetime to be so harshly punished
in this one.
I told the Thai people that I saw blind people most every day of my young life in Morristown,
persons from all over the world, training with their new dogs. They were JUST people — people
who didn’t happen to see very well.
After I met the Founder on the airplane, he asked me if I would stay for a week or so at the
Foundation headquarters and school in Khon Kaen. No problem
I was asked to tutor in English, for 3 days, two university graduates to help them prepare for a
Thai government scholarship exam. The scholarship was for graduate studies at a foreign university.
Neither of the young men eventually won a scholarship.
It was a competitive scholarship for disabled students. A young blind high school student joined them. Her ‘short’ name was Lukette. All Thais have ‘short’ names.) When I returned to Khon Kaen the following fall, for school vacation ‘English Camp’, I asked where is Lukette? I was told: She is in England at the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) with the Thai government scholarship that YOU helped her win.
I didn’t know she was vying for a (different) scholarship. I didn’t know that she was going for
a scholarship at all. I thought she was just there for the chance to spend a few days practicing
her English with a native speaker, and an American at that. Just along for the ride.
During our sessions, I had them read one of the foundation Founder’s speeches. These were the only
documents available in both English Braille for them and printed English for me. The founder is a
dynamic speaker. These were the text of speeches on education for the blind and disabled, etc., and
had a formal vocabulary.
She read well, but halted at some words. I would wait for her to finish the paragraph. I would
ask, what was the meaning of one of those halted words? She said ‘I don’t know’. I said, if you
don’t know the meaning of the word, stop, and ask me ‘what is the meaning of this word?’. I said
many of these words are diplomatic / UN verbiage and many Americans could not tell you the
meaning of some of these words. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or admit that you don’t know
the meaning of a word. That is how you learn. I am not your teacher. You are not getting a
grade. Let’s have some fun.
She relaxed and we did just that. She had a bubbling personality but, when she needed it,
you could tell her concentration was razor sharp. I later found out she had been
valedictorian of her high school class at a mainstream high school in Khon Kaen. She
also later won an English language Braille reading contest IN ENGLAND. Competing against
native speakers with English being her second language.
She is now at a university in England, still on the same scholarship which will provide her education up to Master’s Degree. She has attended The London School of Economics and City University (London) Law School.
So when I was told that I ‘helped’ her win a scholarship, I said she already spoke English better than the two young men. Maybe not quite the same vocabulary as the two university graduates.
They said ‘Yes. But she had no confidence. YOU gave her confidence’.