Kyila was raised in a remote village on the Tibetan plateau. Her father, her twin brothers and Kyila were all born blind. Villagers believed that the family were cursed. “Children didn’t want to play with us,” Kyila says, “adults would throw old food on our doorstep.” Today Kyila is the founder and principle of the first integrative kindergarten in China.
Here she teaches blind and sighted children to become confident, critical and alert little thinkers. “I want to prove that blindness is not a punishment! I am educated, I have travelled the world and I am the richest woman in my village, and this because I am blind.”
Kyila was educated at the marvellous Braille Without Borders school in Lhasa, and then has more recently taken part in the Kanthari program in India. Founder Sabriye Tenberken and partner Paul Kronenberg shared a dream to empower the blind who were outcast in Tibetan society. They had 5 big goals for the blind in Tibet:
- A preparatory school,
- a Braille-printing press
- a vocational training farm
- a self-integration program
- and last but most importantly: one day, all these projects should be taken over by the blind graduates.
Despite many warnings from naysayers and having to overcome major obstacles, they realised their dream in 7 years!
Not being satisfied to stop there, visionaries Sabriye and Paul set more global sights. Sabriye describes Kanthari…
“At Kanthari in Kerala, Southern India, we provide a 7-month leadership program with a difference; one that is geared specially for people with big dreams and passion; people who have overcome difficult times; people who want to help others in their struggles, or develop solutions for our world problems.
We invite participants from all over the world, and with all levels of education to bring their dreams and motivation. International experts conduct hands-on, practical workshops to help bring those dreams to reality. What is most important is a sense of ownership, motivation, creativity and passion to make the world a better place; the strength to be forces of good, not victims of circumstance.”
And why the name ‘Kanthari’? “A Kanthari is a plant that grows wild in every backyard of Kerala. It is one of the spiciest chillies in the world. But it is not only spicy, in fact it initially comforts the tongue. It tastes almost sweet, similar to an unripe strawberry. But then suddenly the sensation starts in the back of the mouth. An explosion that makes you forget where you are.
Kantharis are unusual chillies, small but powerful, with strong medicinal values. This was exactly what we were looking for: A symbol for our unusual institute, a name for the new type of leader, the problem solver we want to incubate. Current and future world challenges caused by tension between mainstream and margin, hunger, exclusion, discrimination and pollution need intervention by individual problem solvers who understand the urgency for ethical social change.”
Do you know a potential Kanthari? There are still places available on their program starting in July 2012. Beautiful Kerala has a good climate, welcoming and interested people, lush nature with its many varieties of fruits and vegetables and great food. And it’s in the right location, central between Africa and Asia where problem solvers, Kantharis are needed. And if you ever hear someone say that an individual cannot change the world, just remind them to bite into a Kanthari and they will realize: a small chilli can make a HUGE difference.
If you know someone who wants to become a Kanthari, please direct them to www.kanthari.org for more information. Scholarships are also available for participants in need.
The Intrepid Foundation – travellers making a difference
Help support Braille Without Borders and other great organisations via the Intrepid Foundation, plus find out how your donation can be matched* by Intrepid Travel!
* Donations will be matched by Intrepid Travel up to AU$5000 (or equivalent) per donor and a total of AU$400,000 each financial year.
Photo: © Braille Without Borders