Inside a classroom, a teacher stands in front of five young and bubbly students. Clad in their powder blue uniform, they have enough energy to form a junior basketball team.
Trying to capture their attention, the teacher patiently says, “Children, listen. Hawak hawak ko ba ‘yung chair [Am I holding the chair]?” she asked and stomped the chair she was holding.
In unison, the children loudly answered no. Continuing her lesson, she then asks them what is the proper conjunction to use if someone is far from something: “This or that?”
“That is a chair!” they answered confidently.
While the scene is a common sight in any prep school, a closer inspection will make one realize that said students are no ordinary ones. They are actually blind and they are receiving training to someday live normally and independently.
These students are just some of the beneficiaries of Resources for the Blind Inc. (RBI), a non-government and non-profit Christian organization devoted to serving people who are visually impaired.
The Manila Times recently had the privilege to visit RBI’s head office in Cubao and got to learn more about the institution established in 1988 by Dr. Arthur Lown.
A blind since childhood, Dr. Lown was formerly administrator of Georgia School for the Blind. Upon arriving in the country, he became administrator of Summer Institute of Linguistics Manila.
He then embarked on several outreach missions in the country to find out the needs of visually impaired Filipinos. With enough understanding, he finally established and formally registered RBI with the Philippine government as a non-profit charitable organization for the blind with focus on translating Bibles to Braille.
After dedicating years of service to RBI, Lown finally passed on the torch to his fellow missionary Randy Weisser who arrived in the country in 1989.
According to Baby Padasas—the RBI social worker who received The Manila Times—through Weisser’s leadership, RBI branched out to more services outside Bible translation.
“He had so many ideas in mind. One of which, I can remember clearly. During his first few years in RBI, while doing his mission programs, Weisser noticed that the Braille bibles were only gathering dust in several locations for the simple reason that their blind readers does not know how to read Braille,” relayed Padasas.
Keen on solving this simple problem, Weisser received the support of the Department of Education. With the partnership, teachers were trained to teach Braille reading to visually-impaired Filipinos. This later on expanded in such way that more teachers and professors were empowered so they could continue teaching blind students who wish to continue their studies until college.
Padasas recalled, “In our initial survey in 1993, there were only 300 students for all blind schools in the Philippines. That number is but a small portion to the 42,000 school-aged Filipinos with visual impairment in the country.”
More importantly, RBI’s efforts do not only end in schooling as it also equips visually impaired Filipinos to get jobs through an employment program.
“Because if no one accepts them, then it defeats the purpose of RBI. There are a lot of blind Filipinos who can excel. What we just really need is the opportunity to do so,” Padasas.