by Susan Jones
From the Editor: Susan Jones is a leader in the NFB of Indiana. Here is her report on efforts to help blind people and their families and teachers in the Philippines:
In 1972 a blind man named Dr. Arthur Lown retired from his job with the Atlanta Public Schools and set off with his wife Inez and their three children for the Philippines. They had been accepted and trained by Wycliffe Bible translators, and they were assigned to manage the guest house in Manila, where missionaries could stay when they needed medical treatment or had to conduct business in the city.
Not long after arriving in the Philippines, Dr. Lown was approached by three blind pastors who wanted Braille Bibles in their own language, Tagalog. Dr. Lown had experience providing Braille books for blind children in Atlanta. So he began the project, eventually providing Bibles in all three major Philippine languages in Braille, in large print, and on cassette. But he also realized that blind Filipinos’ needs were far deeper and more wide-ranging than simply providing Braille Bibles. Most were uneducated and lived in abject poverty. Being a man of vision and realizing it would take a team of people to begin to accomplish all that was needed, in 1988 he founded the organization that today is known as Resources for the Blind, Inc. (RBI).
In 1991 they began educational initiatives. They envisioned blind children integrated into public schools, much as they are in the States, learning alongside their sighted peers. The process was long, and the obstacles were numerous. Teachers had to be convinced they could teach blind children, and they needed training in the alternative techniques of blindness. Parents who saw their blind children as a burden with no potential or future hope had to learn that those children could grow into mature adults living purposeful lives, using their God-given potential to make significant contributions to society.
Like many other worthwhile initiatives, the ministry to blind people in the Philippines grew more multi-faceted. RBI has funded hospital-based training for ophthalmologists, paid for cataract operations, and held camps where blind children could work on skills, gain encouragement and support from one another, and experience the love of Jesus through caring mentors and the study of the Scriptures.
Today RBI holds workshops in the summer to train teachers to teach the blind and visually impaired children of the Philippines. It also prepares blind children and their families for full integration into public schools. It holds screenings for early detection of eye diseases. It performs about 3,000 cataract operations a year to restore sight to many who have lost it. It does early intervention with pre-schoolers, some with multiple disabilities, to prepare them for school and life. It provides counseling and rehabilitation services for people losing their sight and for parents to teach them how to raise their blind children. RBI partners with organizations such as IBM to provide computer and job skills training for high school and college students. It sends many of its finest teachers to the US and other countries to gain knowledge and experience with which they can return to the Philippines to train more teachers. RBI produces virtually all the Braille and large-print books blind children need for their education.
Last fall I was blessed to travel to the Philippines to see all of this marvelous work. I met the director, Randy Weisser, and most of the staff; I visited blind people in their homes and learned something about how they live their lives. The God-given inspiration and Asian ingenuity I witnessed were nothing short of remarkable. My goal in writing this article is to acquaint Monitor readers with this outstanding organization and invite you to consider supporting RBI in whatever way you can. With your support this organization has tremendous potential to expand into other countries where blind people desperately need the services they are prepared to offer. I encourage you to visit the Website <www.blind.org.ph>, where you can find a wealth of information to acquaint you further with Resources for the Blind, Inc., and its mission.