Letter: Rotarians helping blind students in Philippines
To the editor:
The Kelowna Ogopogo Rotary Club joins three other Rotary clubs from Japan, Australia and the Philippines to improve the blind students chance of future employment and their quality of life. In a country where there is no assistance from the government for blind schools or blind children, this Christmas will be a special one for the blind students in the city of Davao, thanks to the four Rotary clubs.
On Dec. 12, Terry Kane, a representative of the Australian Rotary, presented 60 blind students with their Christmas gifts of individual blankets, towels and slippers. The teachers recommended these gifts. Many of the teachers live with the students in their dorms after teaching the children all day, so they have a good idea of what is needed.
The students had already received their gifts from the Japanese Rotary Club, who donated musical instruments. The goal of the school is to help provide the students with life skills that can assist them with future employment. Some blind students find work in bands, so the musical equipment not only provides entertainment, but also provides hope that there may be a job if they do well.
The other common job that blind adults do is massage. Blind massage businesses are more respected than many others in the Philippines. It is believed that the blind massage specialist is better trained. So this is the other job skill that is focused on at the school.
The Philippine Rotary Club of South Davao has provided the money for the 60 students annual food budget. With the donated food, the older students are taught how to cook for themselves in their shared room of four students. Their room includes a stove, mini fridge, sink, two sets of bunk beds and a rough bathroom. Although basic, local Rotarians explain that it is much better than the homes where many of these poor students came from. The students keep their space clean and when they turn 17 years old, they should have the skills that are needed to look after themselves.
One student had the chance of a donated operation, which could have returned his sight. The student refused. It seemed that his life was good at the school and if he had sight, he would have to leave the school.
The Ogopogo Rotary Club of Kelowna, which I represented, donated and assisted with foods for the Christmas luncheon celebration and special treats and gifts for the following holiday season. Both the students and the teachers were very appreciative of the meal and the gifts for the students. In the humid heat, we Rotarians left exhausted but content that we had made a difference. We are finding that the prices are nearly double what they were in Vietnam three years ago, so the cost of the food is not cheap, like I would have expected. Hence, the South Davao Rotarian’s contribution is significant.
Take care and enjoy your Christmas preparations and parties—I am truly missing them.