Whilst working in Bangkok my employer at the time invited us to the Bangkok School for the Blind, as it was nearing Christmas and she went every year to give out presents and give them some activities. We agreed.
The school is situated on Thanon Rajavithi near Victory Monument.
There were about 10 of us from Tiks language school and we arrived not knowing what to expect, just that we were going to play some games and give presents. All the kids had been told of our arrival and were eagerly awaiting us. The first thing we done was to sit in a big circle and roll a ball with bells in to everyone and yell out their name, this done some of the more confident kids wanted to meet us and have a conversation or just show us around.
I’ll confess at this point that this happened at Christmas and rather than say that I have forgotten the names I’ll just say my memory has withheld them.
Regardless of my poor memory for names I do remember the eagerness and energy they all had, and my friend took me off on a fair clip around the school to show me the sights, his favourite being the swimming pool. Then we sat down and had a chat for awhile, he hopes to get a job when he leaves, he’s lucky he has an education. I couldn’t help but think about all the blind people you see being led around playing guitar Thai style and how many of these children will end up like that.
Lunch time and everyone gathered in the canteen, the school pulled out all the stops being as it was a special day and all the kids got an extra helping of food, either Phad kapow or nam tok, most days it’s just khao tom. There was a charity there that day and they provided sweets and drinks. Even so it looked just about adequate for growing children so the day to day fare must have been meagre.
Lunch done and it was time to really get down to some fun. First we played 3-legged races. This was hilarious, the kids loved it, we tied their feet together got them lined up and let them go, the result was as you can imagine chaos. There were heaps of guffawing children all in piles all over the place. If that was fun then the wheelbarrow race was even more so, we had to line up at the end of the course to stop them from going over some steps, which thankfully none did. Then there was the sit in a circle game with one person on the outside with a rag, he/she would walk around the circle and tap someone on the shoulder and they would have to chase the other around the circle and if they didn’t catch them they would lose their place in the circle, they liked to test me on this one. All this time my girlfriend was with 2 teenage girls in the piano room, she can play piano so was in her element, they also had an iPod and she was letting them listen to people they’d never heard of, like Norah Jones.
Before we left we gave out the presents, toys and noisy things of all shapes and sizes, though the most coveted were the balloons you could blow up and pull the mouthpiece tight to make a high pitched squeal and the horns. I had to deal with the politics of present distribution as one lad had 2 of everything and another had next to nothing, so I convinced the first lad to part with some of his gifts, albeit reluctantly and we then went of to find a quiet corner.
He told me he was 8, though he looked about 5 and he was just gripping me tightly all the time, he had the cheekiest face and you knew to look at him if he could see and lead a normal life he would be one of the naughtiest boys. He just wanted to sit there and have a bit of peace and quiet and eventually he fell asleep on my lap such were the rigours of the day.
The day was over I had never spent any time with any blind people, let alone a whole school, so the day for me was an experience. It was a pleasurable day, the kids loved it and it is always fun to play games en masse, however it did show me the hardships these children face, I think someone told me the government gives each student 500THB a year, that doesn’t last me a day in Bangkok, and when they leave school that’s it, no more.
More information can be found on the school at www.blind.or.th , there is an English language link which tells you of the erratic history of the school and the amount of times it has changed location.
My apologies for the length of this blog, I just had to get it out in one go, I promise I’ll keep them shorter from now on.