bringing charm to tibet

sabriye braille without borders tibetWhile travelling the globe Intrepid staff are fortunate to meet many extraordinary women who are making a difference. One very special lady whom we have enjoyed getting to know through The Intrepid Foundation is Sabriye Tenberken. Originally from Germany, 39 year old Sabriye founded Braille Without Borders and late last year she was one of 13 expatriates honoured with a You Bring Charm to China award. With thanks to the China Daily newspaper, we share with you the following story…

“Sabriye Tenberken not only developed the Tibetan Braille script, but also travelled to the Tibet autonomous region alone and founded the first school for the blind there.

Herself blinded by disease while living in Cologne, Germany, when she was 12 she studied at the Central Asian Sciences at Bonn University. In addition to Mongolian and modern Chinese, she also learned modern and classical Tibetan, along with sociology and philosophy. She founded the Centre for the Blind in Lhasa in 1999 that stands to this day and continues to be expanded.

There were no schools for the blind in Tibet before this centre opened. Tenberken is also co-founder and co-director of Braille Without Borders. Besides raising funds and coordinating with officials and sponsor organisations, she is also responsible for developing the curriculum and training the teachers. At one point, she even took on the teaching herself. The going was anything but smooth.

According to Tenberken, at first some locals cheated her by taking advantage of her blindness. Also many European foundations did not offer help, believing that a young woman who herself was blind could never succeed with such a project. But the determined woman persevered and found a soul-mate in Paul Kronenberg, her Danish boyfriend. Sabriye’s book My Path Leads to Tibet, that tells the history of her project and about living with blindness, has been published in 12 languages. In 2008, she was chosen as one of China’s 15 most influential overseas experts over the past 30 years.”

Intrepid travellers to Lhasa have the opportunity to visit the inspiring Braille Without Borders school in Lhasa and soon their new facility in Shigatse. Our last donation through The Intrepid Foundation went towards the purchase of aids including canes, Braille typewriters and Braille slates. Now support is desperately needed to help equip the new Shigatse Centre.

All donations to Braille Without Borders through the Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar up to AU$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$300,000 for all donors in each financial year.

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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cynthia scarborough / Reply

Fascinating account. Extraordinary efforts of one person really does make a difference in the world.'

Beautiful story of brave women. Love Intrepid initiatives to bring hope to “forgotten” people!'

An inspiring woman who has overcome enormous difficulties and achieved so much. Very humbling.

Intrepid Groups this year will visit the new BWB facility in Shigatse which includes a cheese factory/dairy, music school and organic farm. We hope that through our visits and support from our travellers BWB will be able to develop their facility and farm further for tourism (there are plans for a cafe and guesthouse, kayaking and horse riding opportunities).

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