TRIFC/NAWB National Braille Library, Kathmandu

The door was opened, a red ribbon was cut and a rush of people holding white canes entered. Anxious arms reach out to feel for the Braille books on the table. There is a hush in the room as words in Nepali language shift over to quietly spoken English in tandem with fingers moving swiftly across the raised dots that make up Braille words, sentences and paragraphs.

That was the scene on March 26th, 2010 at the offices of the Nepal Association For The Welfare of the Blind, or NAWB. In cooperation with NAWB, TRIFC.org, and the Rotary/Rotaract Club of Kasthamandap we officially inaugurated the National Braille Book Library in Kathmandu, Nepal!

My longtime friends and inspirations- Ms. Nirmala Gyawali and Ms. Sita Gyawali, both women with blindness were present to help us celebrate the start of what we hope will be a very long fruitful relationship, bringing both English and Nepali Braille storybooks and novels to many readers with fingers at the ready just waiting to learn, envision and dream.

For those friends not in Nepal, let me give you a brief explanation of how difficult it is to be a person with blindness here and why this library concept is so groundbreaking. It is difficult to imagine daily life here in Nepal if you are a person with blindness. The noise, traffic and volume of people on the sidewalks and roads are unsettling even if you have sight. And the sidewalks, paths and roads themselves are riddled with bumps, holes and broken cement. However, many children and adults with blindness make their way to NAWB every month to get Braille paper and access other services. Having the library located there made very good sense.

Virtually all of the Braille books here in Nepal are textbooks. There are few storybooks and novels printed or available in either Nepali Braille or English Braille. Blind/Visually-Impaired (BVI) students begin learning English Braille in 5th grade. There was no official Braille library in the entire country….until now.

In cooperation with NAWB, TRIFC.org has commissioned a number of Nepali storybooks to be printed in Nepali Braille. We are also shipping and sending hundreds of boxes of gently-used English Braille books from our area to the new library. One AMAZING fact led to this entire project- Braille books can ship from the USA to anywhere in the world for free, courtesy of the US Postal Service! To date (Fall, 2011) we have sent over 1,800 boxes of Braille Books from various state resource centers for the blind!

So very instrumental in this project has been Ms. Cindy Holm of the Maple Valley Rotary Club. Cindy is a 2008 Nepal Rotary Trip Alumni and also a teacher of the Blind/Visually-Impaired. Thank you, Cindy for your dedication to this project, your coordination help and expertise. And many thanks to the Rotary Club of Maple Valley for their help and assistance packing and shipping so many boxes of books.

Between March 1st – December 31st, 2010 there were 558 users of the Braille Library.