Lantern: Spring 2009
LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT
The result has been a legacy of success, which you will read about in the following pages. On page 4, you'll meet Samantha, a Perkins student who courts very realistic dreams of becoming a braille translator – after she finishes college. Like any teenager, she loves to check her email, talk on her cellphone, and cruise the Internet. Without braille, she tells us, none of this would be possible.
You will also read about Perkins International Advisory Board Chair Paul Polman's bid to promote braille literacy in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania by making braillers available to all needy children in those countries. And Braille & Talking Book Library Director Kim Charlson will introduce you to the artistic uses of braille.
In all of these stories, we continue to celebrate the possibilities that your support has allowed Perkins to uncover. We thank you for putting your faith in us, now, and in the future.
Steven M. Rothstein
President, Perkins School for the Blind
- Samantha will read her own stories
- A message of triumph and hope
- Something to sing about
- Reading between the lines
- On an equal footing
- A hero among champions
- Braille represented at State House
- Envisioning the future
Around the World:
- Lessons travel from Perkins to Ghana
- In Argentina: the multiplier effect of hope
- Changing the world, one brailler at a time
- Perkins promotes inclusion at UNESCO conference
- Vision 5K: See with your heart
- Is there a mom who inspired you?
- Greetings from the Perkins Trust
- 2009 Perkins Possibilities Gala
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"After I finished my first book, I said 'Mommy, now I can read books by myself and tuck you into bed!'" she says. "It was really cool."
Sixteen years later, braille is still "really cool" to this ambitious young woman. She uses the tactile language code daily to take class notes, read food labels, check her email, and navigate the Perkins campus, where she has studied for more than five years. Though she loves the JAWS technology that reads text aloud from her computer screen, it's braille that gives her the most confidence in her daily routines.
"It's so basic! Without braille, I wouldn't know if the menu said 'chicken pot pie' or 'liver and onions,'" says Samantha, (not a fan of liver). "Sometimes I think my mother wishes I couldn't read the braille menu. Then she could order me something healthy."
In December 2008, Samantha's braille skills earned her top honors in the Perkins' Braille & Talking Book Library essay competition. Her entry illustrates the continued relevance of braille as a teaching tool.
It also means freedom to learn.
"Though computers are helpful for some writing, math and science would be almost impossible (without braille) because I'd have to verbally dictate my answers to people and not have anything in front of me to visualize the concept," writes Samantha in her essay. "Readers would have to write my homework assignments for me and read my textbooks."
Samantha bristles at that thought. Like most teenagers, she is itching for the independence that braille provides. Using her braille notetaker and printer, she has already completed two college courses – one at Lesley University and the other at Mt. Ida College. She has learned Spanish and French braille, and often competes in braille translation competitions. After Perkins, she plans to earn a college degree and pursue a career as a braille transcriber.
Rowley thinks Samantha's dreams are on track.
"She will do well because she has great writing skills, great ideas, and the braille skills to back them up."
"They were the darkest years of my life," said Slattery, who now works with the Boston Anti-Slavery Group, a non-profit whose mission is to stamp out slavery worldwide. "I was abused in every way imaginable... I thought God was trying to punish me for one reason or another."
President Steven M. Rothstein said Slattery's message is particularly resonant with the Perkins community.
"Like Dr. King, Micheline showed a courage that transcended her circumstances," he said. "At Perkins, this is what we try to instill each day, in every classroom."
Added Slattery, "I spoke today because I want people to know that I am not special. In Haiti and the United States, there are thousands like me, but that doesn't make it okay."
"Recitals at Perkins are the culmination of a lot of hard work. We will have nearly 10 recitals this spring alone," said Perkins Music Director Arnie Harris. "Chastity and Kara have worked for years with voice teacher Jennie O'Brien, and their performances prove that the hard work paid off. They have a lot to be proud of."
All that toil does not diminish their joy in learning and singing—especially songs with a universal theme that everyone can relate to. "They're all about love," Chastity says with a giggle, "I like singing about love!"
"An ophthalmologist is where we take you when you have problems with your eyes," her mother said.
"But Mom I don't have any problems," the little girl returned.
That's precisely the attitude that her parents want to nurture in Kelly, now 7, and a second grader in the Albany Public Schools. It's also why the family gladly drives more than three hours each way to bring Kelly to several Perkins Outreach Short Course weekends each year.
"She really looks forward to being on an equal footing with all of the other kids," said Jennifer as she picked up her daughter from Perkins' Louis Braille 200th Birthday Party Outreach weekend on February 1. "She knows that people aren't going to say 'come see this.' Instead, they'll say 'come smell this, come touch this, come get involved.' It's not something she usually hears in her regular school classroom, and she really notices the difference."
Kelly also knows she'll connect with old friends like Kathleen, whom she met at a previous outreach weekend.
"We make up monster stories and tell them to each other," says Kelly of her pal. "They are not stories that are for the rest of the world."
Each year, Perkins offers several Outreach Short Courses – weekend sleepovers that give public school students who are blind or visually impaired a chance to learn new skills in a socially upbeat, supportive environment. Upcoming weekends include horticulture, science, college survival skills, personal appearance, and creative arts.
For the kids, though, the weekends don't have high-brow agendas. They're just plain fun. Kelly was thrilled to use olives to write her name in braille on her pizza. Anthony was breathless from chasing his buddy Alex. And all of the kids squealed with delight when the candles on Louis Braille's birthday cake were blown out.
It was, after all, a birthday party.
Help us reach more people
For each dollar you give to Perkins Short Course Outreach Weekends (up to $50,000), TheWeezie Foundation will give another two (up to $100,000) whichmeans your gift is tripled. For more information on this opportunity, or to participate visit www.perkins.org/give.
On February 5, Yegue Badigue added another highlight to a life that is already full of triumphs.
The 2003 Perkins graduate stepped onto the parquet at Boston's TD BankNorth Garden to accept the Boston Celtics Foundation's Heroes Among Us Award. Crowds stomped and cheered as the 26-year-old Chad native and his fiancee joined sports icons Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Kobe Bryant to receive the award, which is given at each home game to a person who has made a tremendous impact on the lives of others.
That's an apt description of Badigue, a Gordon College senior who was born blind and rendered partially deaf by a massive dose of anti-malaria medication. Since leaving his homeland 10 years ago to pursue an education, he has become an example to all who meet him. Fluent in six languages, and able to play five instruments, he is always scanning the horizon for what he calls his "next undreamable surprise."
"I hope to join the team of making a difference, being productive, and bringing economic empowerment to those left behind," he says.
Sending your child off to college, training, or that first job is never easy for any parent. For parents of children who are blind, deafblind or visually impaired, this rite of passage often causes palpable anxiety.
The Second Annual Envision the Future Conference, held at Perkins on March 14, sought to ease this stress by giving parents information on a variety of transition resources. The daylong conference featured workshops on housing, estate planning, community living skills, and Social Security, among other things. Attendees were grateful to have their questions squarely answered.
"We'd like to see all children successfully placed," says Rob Hair, Perkins Lower School Education Director. "For some that means going to college. Others might do better in a group home or sheltered workshop. Knowing which option is right for your child is what many find frightening. With information, it becomes less scary."
The single most exciting moment came when Charlson visited the Coupvray birthplace of Louis Braille, the inventor of braille.
"I could literally feel shivers going up my spine when I walked into Braille's home [now a museum]," said Charlson. "Then one of the curators opened the glass case and let me hold Louis Braille's slate. It was made of dark wood and very shiny."
Her reverie was short-lived. As one of the presenters at the official Commemoration of the Bicentenary of Braille's Birth, Charlson was very much in demand by other attendees who wanted to know when they could get a copy of her book. In it, she gives step-by-step directions on how to use a braille writer to create 28 different pieces of art. Pictures range from an elephant to a school bus.
"My book hadn't been released in English yet, but a woman from Germany was asking me when she could order," says Charlson. "It's a natural for kids, especially since they hear so much about drawing from classmates or siblings. Now, children who are blind can make pictures, too. Many adults that I have talked to have never had a chance to draw and are interested in it as well."
Polman, 52, plans to run the 2009 B.A.A. Boston Marathon® to raise $100,000 for the Kilimanjaro Blind Trust (KBT), a Perkins-supported charity that puts Perkins Braillers® in the hands of children who are blind and visually impaired in Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya. The charity also trains people to repair and maintain the machines.
His 26-year-old son, Christian, plans to run alongside Paul.
"Our family has always had a competitive spirit, but this goes beyond competition," says Christian, a Boston area resident. "We are attracted to this challenge because what you see in this cause is the ability of others to rise above, to face enormous challenges and improve their lives. We train hard, but we know people who are blind face even greater challenges. That's incredibly motivating."
The elder Polman, who chairs Perkins International Advisory Board, started the KBT in 2005, after climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro alongside six hikers who are blind. Christian and his brother Sebastianwere also on that expedition.
Ever the pragmatist, Paul is quick to point out the economic necessity of KBT's work:
"Braille is a child's pen and paper. It's the basis of literacy. And in Africa, literacy plays a huge role in a person's ability to compete, to get ahead. We've developed a good infrastructure on the ground, so the braille machines are actually getting to the people who need them."
Find out more about the 15 people who are on the Perkins Boston Marathon Team.
Perkins has a fortunate history of attracting dedicated individuals to our work.
"Perkins students and staff have been an inspiration to me for well over 30 years," Clifford said. "My fellow trustees embody the vision of possibility we see at work at the school and in the school's outreach both to the community and to its many international programs."
Clifford took the reigns from Janet B. James, who stepped down as Chair but will continue to serve as a Trustee. Joining the Board in November was Thomas Hehir, a Harvard School of Education professor and former Director of the Office of Special Education within the U.S. Department of Education.
"I seldom heard him give an answer to a question. He most often answered a question with another question," says Sergei, a native of Russia who joined the Perkins staff in November 2008. "And I am thankful for that, because it trained me to question my assumptions, to leave my prejudices behind me when I take on new challenges."
Sorokin comes to Perkins from Sweden, where he held numerous positions in special needs education, most recently as Chief Executive Officer for MoGard, a private non-profit that provides social services for people who are deaf and deafblind.
"All of my visits to the eye doctor were fascinating. I loved learning about how things work," says Rife, who began at Perkins this winter. "I'm still that way. Put me in a lecture on low-vision and I'm thrilled."
Over the last two decades, Dorinda has held many positions in the field of education, from itinerant teacher of the blind to orientation and mobility specialist. She comes to us from the Arizona School for the Blind where she was the principal.
"The beauty of working at Perkins is that there's a full continuum of services. We have a school for the blind. We have a low-vision clinic. We teach teachers," she says. "We really have all the options."
One of the first things Ghana native Hubert Kafui Ahlijah learned when he enrolled in Perkins' Educational Leadership Program (ELP) was to, in his words, "face the solutions" in deafblind education.
That perspective says a lot about Hubert, who, at the time, had already ascended to a respected professional position: Assistant Head Master at the Demonstration School for the Deaf & Blind. After nearly four decades of teaching in Ghana, he had a feeling that there would always be more to learn about teaching children who are deafblind.
His year-long study at Perkins confirmed that hunch. It also motivated him to seek creative solutions to the unique challenges facing children in Mampong, Ghana.
Calendar boxes are a good example. At Perkins, Hubert had learned to use a series of plastic bins to teach students how to establish routines and manage daily tasks. In Ghana, those bins were unavailable, but there was an abundance of rice bags. Hubert made do by using the bags instead of the bins. His students learned new skills.
Hubert also tackled the troubling issue of transition by starting an outreach program for students who were about to graduate from the Demonstration School.
For some, this entailed weekly walks to nearby community organizations, including an orthopedic hospital and an orphanage. These simple trips gave students a chance to navigate local roadways and to interact with people who are not blind. For others, the outreach meant part-time work at a local water purification plant, an activity that provided structure and a small measure of social acceptance.
In all cases, the exposure helped to bridge the gap that often develops between people who are sighted and those who are blind and visually impaired.
Hubert's passion and intelligence don't surprise his Perkins mentor, Assistant Education Director of the Deafblind Program, Martha Majors: "Hubert has provided a new style of leadership, energy, and optimism toward developing learning environments for children who are deafblind in Ghana."
"Those 18 are now infused into an educational system that will impact training in 70 schools. Those schools will help train as many as 400 teachers who will, eventually, reach up to 1,100 kids who are deafblind or who have multiple disabilities," says Perreault, the Coordinator of Hilton Perkins' Latin America programs.
Perkins created this one-time partnership between Chile's Metropolitan University and Argentina's Cabred University to bring new academic opportunities to Argentinean education professionals. Ultimately, it's more than a numbers game, says Perreault: "For many years these children were excluded from education partly due to the lack of trained teachers. This partnership highlights themethodology and importance of educating all children, including those who are deafblind or who have multiple disabilities."
The gift dramatically improved learning for the war-torn school, which had previously scraped by with very little equipment.
"We use the braillers to print books for our pupils and we use the dictionaries to learn spelling, so, thank God, all you did was very useful," writes Amar Ali, a teacher at Al Noor. "The braillers are very useful for all the blind pupils in our school."
Prior to the Al Noor initiative, Perkins provided teacher training in nearby Jordan and trained educators in Lebanon and Egypt through the Educational Leadership Program.
Perkins International brought its message of inclusive education and expanded braille literacy to the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) International Conference on Education, held in Geneva, Switzerland. The discussion centered on how best to achieve UNESCO's decade-long "Education for All" initiative. Perkins President Steven M. Rothstein and Perkins International Director Sergei Sorokin distributed a position paper, "Advancing Education for All Children who are Blind or Visually Impaired with Multiple Disabilities." The two men also spoke with education ministers from around the globe about how Perkins can help grow educational opportunity in different settings. "Less than 10 percent of the children with disabilities in the developing world have access to education," Rothstein explained. "The UNESCO campaign will only be able to reach its goal if it takes these children into account."
What: 5K (3.1 mile) walk/run
When: Sunday June 7, 2009, 9:30-noon (race starts at 10 a.m.)
Where: Boston College, 140 Commonwealth Ave. (enter through main gate)
Why: To raise awareness and funds for the blind and visually impaired.
The day will include a Kids Fun Run, food from local restaurants, music, and, if you wish, a Blindfold Challenge run.
To join the Perkins Team or for more information contact Stephanie Marvel at email@example.com or 617-972-7868.
Honor her with a gift that inspires others.
For Perkins, it's JuliaWard Howe, wife of founding director Samuel Gridley Howe and the woman credited with inspiring Mother's Day.
This year, you can honor a woman who made a difference in your life and support Perkins at the same time:
- Send a free, personalized Mother's Day e-card featuring student art like the Superhero Mom seen here.
- Make a $25 gift online and we'll also send your mom a rose & lavender sachet, made by a Perkins student.
- Make a $500 gift online and, in addition to the above, we'll install a permanent brick that is personalized on the Perkins walkway.
To send a card or make a gift, visit us at www.Perkins.org/give/mothers-day.
Though the economic climate is undeniably challenging, you continue to give generously. Last year, you helped us serve a record 94,000 people on campus, in the community and around the world. In the coming months Perkins will reach out to more and more people so that we can continue to provide the resources that build independent, successful lives.
Your faith in Perkins is well-placed. Charity Navigator, a premiere evaluator of non-profits, recently recognized Perkins' deft financial management with its much-coveted four-star rating.
We are excited to share this honor with many friends, like you. Your consistent and continued support is appreciated even more deeply now.
Executive Director, Perkins Trust
Music, fun & possibility at a cocktail reception and dinner hosted at our beautiful campus.
Corinne Grousbeck and Jon Luther
Taking Care of Our Children... Taking Care of Ourselves
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Perkins Possibilities Gala
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Volunteer Recognition Night
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Educational Leadership Program Graduation
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Friday, June 12, 2009
Friday – Saturday, June 12 - 13, 2009
Are you a member of the Perkins Family?
If you attended Perkins for any length of time, you are invited to the Alumni Weekend, June 12-13. Connect with old friends and mentors. Attend one of the many events. Or, just stroll through familiar pathways.
Let us know you're coming. RSVP Alumni Association President Marie Hennessy at 617-972-7873 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you cannot come, please call us anyway. We want to stay in touch.
The Perkins Annual Fund generates possibilities.
We call it the Annual Fund, but we could call it the "every day fund." Your support makes a difference every day for every one of the 94,000 people Perkins reaches:
- Buy a child's first braille book
- Enable a public school student to attend a Perkins Outreach Weekend
- Provide music therapy to help a child develop language skills
- Purchase braillers for underfunded classrooms
Your gift to the Annual Fund helps pay for so many things. Every day.
To make a gift by mail, by phone, or online, visit us at www.perkins.org/give or call Jennifer Volpe at 617-972-7667.
Founded in 1829 as the nation's first school for the blind, Perkins today serves over 92,000 infants and elders in their homes; school-age students on campus and in the community; and children in 62 developing countries. The school is an accredited member of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the National Association of Independent Schools. It is licensed by the Massachusetts Departments of Education and Mental Retardation and by the Commonwealth's Department of Early Education and Care. Perkins School for the Blind does not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, color, creed, nationality, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation.
All we see is Possibility.
As we try to extend our reach, please let us know of any corrections of your name, address or email.