Rupanjan Goswami, an Award Leader from The Ramakrishna Mission Blind Boys' School, shares his eye opening experiences of working with the visually challenged Awardees.
"If Eric Weinheinmer could do it, so could I," said the completely visually challenged boy Shibnath, standing under a Casuarina tree in his school campus. When Shibnath said this, his face sparkled like the rising sun. "Sightless mountaineer Weinheinmer of U.S.A proved this, reaching the highest peak of the world, that a sightless person has the potentiality and physical and mental strength to achieve such a stupendous feat."
I was spellbound while listening to Shibnath. I had been observing the growth and development of Shibnath for more than a decade. He gained mental strength gradually like the thundercloud. I asked him how he had gained such confidence. Shibnath said, "Ramakrishna Mission (the organization under which our institution R K.M.Blind Boys' Academy comes, alma mater of Shibnath) infused two powers in him - the power of education and spiritualism, and the power of the International Award for Young People (IAYP), which injected the confidence to overcome any obstacle that I came across on my way."
Such Shibnaths can be seen in our Academy who are always performing with high spirits and strong will power. These Shibnaths are present in every nook and corner of society and are performing tremendously in every field with flying colours. Amongst them, some are teachers, professors, and research scholars, while others are bank employees, government employees, railway employees and some of them are businessmen. Some of them have professional audio recording studios and some of them run popular musical bands.
I am Rupanjan Goswami, Award leader of R.K.M.Blind Boys' Academy. I have been working with the Blind Boys' Academy for more than two decades now. I realised the potentiality of my students while teaching them Biology, the potentiality which had been ignored by the majority of the people in society. This infinite strength of the visually challenged was discovered first by Louis Braille, the French boy inventor of the braille script. It was he who gave the keys to these people who can reach the zenith of success by their power of education and expression.
It is important to say something about the The Ramakrishna Mission Blind Boys' Academy here. It is a fully residential, educational cum vocational training institute. The Academy was adjudged the best institution for persons with visual disabilities twice and was conferred the President's medal. The guiding principle of this institute is man-making and character building and with this view, this institute started its journey in 1957. Thousands of visually challenged youths have been educated and trained here and they are contributing to the growth and development of our country. It has also helped to eradicate negative concepts regarding the potentiality of visually challenged peoples in our country. By joining hands with the Award Programme, it can be said that the process of growth has been accelerated regarding empowering visually challenged people.
Another Gold Awardee, Kundan Yadav says, "Each modern aircraft is made fully secure with the help of two engines, so that it can fly safely at the right height with the right efficiency. According to me R.K.M Blind Boys' Academy and IAYP are two such engines which help us to fly safely and securely, so that we can reach the appropriate height, removing all impediments and reach our destination safely."
Life at the Blind Boys' Academy is full of diversities. Besides studies, the participants are engaged in vocal and instrumental music, drama, recitation, elocution, quiz, debate, extempore speaking, and various kinds of indoor and outdoor games and sports like swimming, cricket, football, chess, carom, yoga and judo. Our students regularly take part in national level championship in swimming, cricket and judo and snatch prizes frequently.
Along with these activities, engagement in IAYP has become a part and parcel of academic life in our institution. Out of four sections which IAYP emphasizes, three of them (Skills, Service and Physical Recreation) are already in practice through our everyday routine. It is compulsory for every visually challenged student in our Academy to be engaged in these activities which are followed by the able guidance of our teachers, instructors and Award Leaders.
The Philosophy of IAYP is so popular among the very young students that they eagerly wait to reach the eligibility age group so that they may enroll themselves in the Award. Souvik, a student of class IV is waiting to join IAYP the moment he reaches the age of enrollment. He says, "Awardees of our institute are energetic and helpful after receiving this award. Each of them has become a storehouse of power. They are engaged in every activity of the life of Blind Boys' Academy. Helping the newcomers to find their ways, helping weak boys in their studies, serving food, making the campus neat and clean and showing all kind of leadership qualities which has changed the total scenario of our alma mater. When these boys go out for Adventurous Journeys taking their rucksacks on their shoulders, I feel that soon I too will be going with them. Returning back when they narrate their experiences, I too imagine as if I had travelled along with them mentally. Whatever they touch becomes successful. They are good at studies, so are they good at rest of the activities. So, I am eagerly waiting to join IAYP and I am sure that I will be successful like them."
Being an Award Leader, I see my visually challenged awardees take part in the Adventurous Journey. I see them trek through strenuous mountain routes, or on a coastal trek. I see how spontaneous they are while climbing up or rappelling on treacherous rocks using all modern rock climbing equipment like carabiners, jumars, quickdraws, rope, crash helmets, harnesses, belay devices, rappel devices, slings and so on. They are equally adept in doing river crossing, monkey crawling, obstacle trekking and pitching tents in dense forests after searching for suitable place. I see them cooking without regular utensils, using natural resources in the hill and the forest. I become spellbound when I see them well oriented with the whims of nature. They sniff out beehives by hearing the buzzing sound of the honey bees and with the help of escorts they make fires and are able to drive the bees away before tasting the sweet honey. And in the evening, when the day's activity is over, they are engaged in singing, playing the flute and participating in dances with the local tribes people.
These boys are visually challenged, so how are they familiarised with nature? This is a question which echoes in the mind of most people. The answer is so simple: they touch, they smell and they feel with their hands and their hearts and in this way they learn about nature. The concept and philosophy of the IAYP has opened their inner-eyes, helping them to overcome all odds and at the end of the day they become victorious in their day to day struggle. This spirit helps them to get to the top with indomitable courage and grit like the visually challenged summiteer of Mount Everest, Eric Weinheinmer.
Being a sighted person, sometimes I think, if I had been visually challenged like them, would I have been able to do what my visually challenged students have done? The answer is positive yes. I could do, If I would get two wings to fly: one Ramakrishna Mission Blind Boys' Academy and the other, the International Award for Young People. Click here forpictures...