This past Tuesday, Perkins School for the Blind hosted its third annual “Shark Tank” event, raising $75,000 to back critical efforts to help children with visual impairment the world over.
Modeled after the television show of the same name, the event connected Perkins’ Educational Leadership Program (ELP) participants, all of whom have dreams of launching new academic initiatives in their home countries, with Boston-area business leaders interested in making those dreams a reality.
The ELP is Perkins’ flagship teacher-training program, open to a select group of educators and other professionals from around the world who live and work at Perkins for nine months. Many work with severely underserved students whose visual impairment and additional disabilities make it difficult for them to get the education they need in their communities.
“We’re working in more than 65 countries around the world helping get these children into school and our ELP graduates are playing a vital role in this,” said Mike Delaney, Executive Director of Perkins International. “These programs they’re sharing with you have a lot of substance.”
Nguyen Thi Hang a special education researcher with the Ministry of Education in Vietnam, was among the presenters seeking project funding. Standing behind the podium, she explained that there are 1.3 million children with disabilities in her country, 14% of whom have visual impairment.
“But only 500 go to school,” she said. “Most of them stay at home.”
To combat that disparity, Hang said she hopes to establish a library filled with sensory toys and tactile books to give families in need a new educational resource.
More inspiring presentations followed.
Marta Luczkow, of Poland, said she plans to launch a summer camp that specializes in teaching independent living skills to children who are deafblind. Tuti Hendrawati, of Indonesia, wants to develop a model orphanage program at her orphanage, where she would train caregivers to work with children who are blind with other disabilities. Samir Ashmawy, of Egypt, laid out a plan to launch an assistive device center in Cairo.
“I have learned the skills to build assistive devices with inexpensive materials,” said Ashmawy. “I can make those in Egypt at low cost and high quality.”
As the event wound down, ELP participants celebrated their successful presentations in the Grousbeck Center hallway. Thanks to the support of their audience, they knew the real work was about to begin