A few months ago i got a call from my old home economics teacher at Jordanstown. She wanted to know if i would take part in their anual “health for life” day wwhich is where there are different things that happen throughout the day. I said i would, but when she asked me if i would talk about braille as the kids were getting bored i wasn’t too sure. I love my braille, but i would be the first to admit that i don’t use it as often as i really should. Technology is there and it’s convinient, but i would still advocate braille. I had no idea how i would convince 10 and 11 year olds to use it though.
On Tuesday morning me and another friend from school headed down to jordanstown together. It was also a chance to look round the new school as well which i hadn’t seen since i was last at the old school. It was still being built at that stage.
When we first arrived, i couldn’t believe how quiet the little road you have to cross to get into the school was. There were little scooters and that whizzing around the playground. This was a lot different from what used to be there. The actual sschool felt more like a hospital than a school to be honest. I thought maybe it was like a college but that wouldn’t describe it either. The doors were power assisted, but i don’t think you were allowed to push the button if you could pull open the door which was a bit weird. The whole place was huge! Or it seemed that way. It was very open too. If i’m honest i think i prefered the old school layout. That could be just because i’ve grown up with it.
Anyway we were taken up to the staff room first, before heading off so that my friend could do his talk first. He talked to the partially sighted people. He chatted to them about being independent and what he did after school. One of the things he did was go to The Gambia. To be honest this was pointless an albeeno being sent there, but he went over to teach the kids some sports and that, and just to be a support to them. There was an organisation over there called Govi. He said that even though they didn’t have much, they were happy and sung songs and that every day. He said he gave a 4 year old some of his bottles of suncream. The child apparently thought this was the best thing because it meant he could go out into the sun and he wouldn’t have to worry about getting burnt. I myself found that really inspiring.
I then went to talk to some of the kids about braille. I didn’t know how i was going to do it at all. I just told them about Ushi and being more independent. I told them about how even if they didn’t use braille at all, if they knew the basics it would be such a help to them. I said they could read in the dark, they could write secret messages to each other, and the other kids wouldn’t know what they were saying. I also told them that i didn’t have a choice and had to learn braille until i was about 10 or 11 when then you learnt to touch type on a computer. I also explained that they could label their cds. I was met with “But we could use the pen friend” which is a pen where you put it on a label and record a message and it’ll play it back when you put the pen back down on it. I asked them what they would do if it ran out of batteries. They said buy more. Not quite the answer i was looking for.
One of the little girls said she liked touching people. She said she was touching a randomer in the supermarket and he yelled at her. I didn’t know how to word this, but if there is one thing i hate, it’s touchy feely blind people. Sometimes there is just no need and it can be very inappropriate. So i basically said that even though they liked human contact, you should only need to touch someone if you are taking their arm or that kind of thing. I said that sometimes it can be embarrassing both for the person and the person being touched. This wasn’t a feel your face kind mind you, but she still liked to touch people on the arm and it wasn’t just a simple oh i’m finding your elbow kind of a touch. This was a full on run my hands down your arm kind of a touch. So i said that people have always told me to keep my hands to myself.
I told them that their mums and that wouldn’t always be there and especially since they are getting to the age where they need to know how to care for themselves in every sense of the word.
I then finished up with letting them see Ushi. I made such an impression that i have been asked to come back in september again to help them all with their braille. I am looking forward to that but don’t know where to start.
I got a £10 amazon gift voucher and they got the kids to write me a message in braille which i was very pleased about :).
Even though my experiences weren’t the best there at times, i wasn’t going to tell them that. I wouldn’t have got the chance anyway.
After the talks the kids went out to help dig and plant some vegetables for the home economics teacher which is brilliant to have fresh vegetables and that.
I would like to thank jordanstown for having me and look forward to seeing the kids again.