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Fall 2001 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

Sharing Your Gifts

By Paige Parrish, Parent, Tyler, Texas

Alexandria, standing out door, holding 4 long canes.My daughter Alexandria is losing her vision due to a rare congenital retinal disease. She is a socially aware nine-year-old who is inquisitive beyond her years. She possesses the ability to push past the societal boundaries frequently imposed on the blind.

Her passion for Africa began through several friends who, due to business or medical missions, lived in Africa. While visiting their homes, she tactually explored a genuine tribal mask and zebra skins. She also was intrigued by a life-size bronze African dancer who was in the exact ballet position, "posse," that she was trying to master in her ballet class.

Alexandria's love for Africa was cultivated during a visit to our local zoo. This was no ordinary day at the zoo, for I had contacted the zoo owner, Hayes Caldwell, to inquire about a "hands-on" experience. He graciously accepted my unusual request. This experience would shape and forever change Alexandria. As she scaled a giraffe's neck she had a moment of absolute clarity - a concept that would be forever ingrained in her visual memory. (See "Out of the Mouths of Babes" SEE/HEAR, Summer 2001.)

Upon returning home from our adventure, Alexandria wanted to find out everything she could about Africa and its inhabitants via the Internet. With my assistance, our first inquiry about blind Africans led us to an emotional photo essay. The first photo to appear on the screen was that of a blind villager who had been robbed of his ocular function by having a parasitic worm in his system. He was using what appeared to be a gnarled branch for a mobility cane. Alexandria was brought to tears as she pressed her nose to the magnified image of someone not so different from herself. She did not understand why he did not have the proper equipment to navigate around in his environment as she did.

The next photo to emerge was of yet another man who was blind, and he was wandering aimlessly around his village with his shirt on wrong-side-out and backwards. No one would assist him in getting where he needed to go.

Further reading brought out disturbing findings - this culture views blindness as a curse. It is believed that people of Africa are stricken blind for their wicked deeds; therefore, they are discarded by society. The children of blind parents lose their childhood and any opportunity for an education because they become sighted guides for their blind parent.

9 10 Alexandria quickly began to devise a plan to relinquish her outgrown mobility canes and get them into more needy hands. As a mother, you can imagine that I am bursting at the seams with pride. The next step was to follow a link to Helen Keller International http://www.hki.org/, and they were more than willing to assist us with our desire to help. As we were getting ready to ship the canes, Alexandria decided to add a Braille label in Swahili. The label read, "Chechesha kwa itikada wala mandhari." This means, "Walk by faith and not by sight." This Bible verse has become her way of life.

The shipment is on its way to Helen Keller International in New York and the canes will be disbursed in various parts of Africa according to need, as determined by a field officer. And so, as I watch my daughter's vision diminish, I am seeing it replaced by a spiritual and world vision that is 20/20.

If you are interested in helping Alexandria in her quest, you can purchase a new cane for $10. Contact Angela with Maxi-Aids, at (800) 522-6234. She is coordinating canes donated in Alexandria's name. These gifts will be included in Helen Keller's annual report.

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Last Revision: July 30, 2002