When Onesta Carpene' talked to me about Bung Sang, the community of blind boys and
girls in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, we were sitting and drinking tea in her house garden in Phom Phen, in July
Onesta is a catholic volunteer who has been working for thirty years for the Australian CISDE, Cooperative Internationale
pour le Development et la Solidariete'.
In the center of Ho Chi Minh - Onesta was telling me - there is a community of blind called Bung Sang. The school
is not more than a poor house of 50 square meters owned by Dao Khan Troung, a blind teacher of music.
Since 1985 he has hosted some orphans and blind street boys coming from the Mekong countryside. Now there are some
fifty boys and girls aged from 5 to 24 who live and study together. Music instruction is the most important activity;
all of them can play at least one instrument and sing in a chorus, but school subjects are studied anyway.
Four days later, I visited the community for the first time. In the middle of the traffic of central Saigon, I
saw a group of blind children holding their hands, crossing the street with bravery, and some difficulties. The
children of the Bung Sang Club were coming back from school.
My great wish is that some students of the Bung Sang could take computer courses in a specialized school - their
teacher Dao told me when I met him that day - Music keeps us together, but it is necessary to increase their knowledge
in all other fields. The group is very tight, everybody helps each other, the elders teach the younger, they need
to learn everything.
Mr. Dao's idea was to send some students abroad, to learn and come back as trainers. In 1995, after investigations
in schools for the blind in the West, I thought the best solution was to start a project with the objective of
providing the community with a computer and equipment for reading and writing and printing in Braille and teach
as many as possible to use the system.
With the support and help of some friends and of Mantovan Association, in the same year I was able to set up a
workstation in the already small space of Bung Sang. The computer had a speech interface, a Braille display and
a Braille printer.
I was in front of a challenge: I had never had a teaching experience with disabled people and had to study and
learn something new. But soon those who knew a little English learned how to use the system, getting great results,
and increasing their learning skills.
On my way back to Italy, I took a commitment. I would have worked to provide Bung Sang with a computer room. Again
I had to learn something new, how to raise money for projects. After four years I was able to tell Mr. Dao's that
his dream was coming true.
The project we are working on now, is the creation of a computer center, connected to the Internet, with technology
for studying, producing and publishing texts and music scripts in Braille.
Although there are a lot of difficulties, there's no lack of optimism.
We hope the computer center will open a window on a world of knowledge and friendship to be explored without barriers,
a better world than the one we have known so far.
Carlo Pizzato, November 1999