Sao Mai Education Fund 

A letter for you

Ho Chi Minh City, 18 January, 2004

Dear friend,

In our web space  you can find a documentation on the Sao Mai Computer Center for the Blind of Ho Chi  Minh City, Vietnam,  and on how it was established. 

If you have not read our pages yet, in short, the Sao Mai Computer Center for the Blind is the social achievement  of a two year computer education project (operated by the two of us) that created the first  group of blind computer experts in Vietnam. The project provided computer education to some thirty blind, at different level. Eight of them have become expert users.
Now they train other blind and research on various areas of interest for the visually impaired.

The Center was equipped with seven computers, (each with Screen Reader software and Braille Display), a local network, an Internet station, a  Braille printer, technology for sound recording  and reproduction, CD Writer, and equipment for producing tactile images.

The educational project, before, and then the Computer Center have been visited by many, including Larry Campbell (Overbrook school for the blind, Philadelfia, USA, larry@obs.org),  and Victor and Karolina Tsaran, vtsaran@icevi.org. As experts of international reputation in the field of computer accessibility for the blind, they may provide independent information on the Sao Mai Center.

The Center started operating in January 2002, after relocation from the building where the educational project had been carried. We set it up and have assisted it since then financially and with our experience.

The purpose of this  letter is to look for friends and sponsors. First of all friends to help us circulate information on the Center because in this part of the world it is a unique experience and a rare accomplishment; then experts who may provide further advanced computer training  and managing strategies to the blind who operate it, and last but not least sponsors to help the Center bear the running costs and carry on institutional objectives and development programs.

The main current activities of the Center are:

* Free (to the students) "blind to blind" computer training;

* Research on the use of computers  for the blind (e.g. Linux environment, software for the development of cognitive skills for blind children);

* Research on resources accessible to the Vietnamese blind on the Internet;

* Production of reading materials on paper (=Braille prints) and on digital support for listening. 

Self sustainability  of the Center is an objective that requires adequate strategies and time. Notwithstanding a favorable legal framework, the obstacle is in the culture and in the social organization of society.

Like in many countries, the disabled are considered individuals to be assisted if there is wealth surplus and to be provided with education after everybody else, rather than individuals entitled  to control their existence and potentially useful members of the community. 

With hopes that you will contribute in the most suitable way to you, may we ask you to email the link to this letter to your friends. 

Carlo Pizzato

Amedeo Pignatelli

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Link to details of the Education Fund bank account, under the NGO Associazione Mantovan of Bolzan, Italy.