I Don’t Want To Be Blind On The Inside As Well As On The Outside – Boon’s Story
My name is Bunsiri ‘Boon’ Phuengkaew. I live in Thailand. I have been almost completely blind from birth. I can see the outlines of big buildings; I can see faces, but no details. I can’t see smiles, blinks or when people pull faces. I can’t remember faces, but I do recognise voices. I can’t see steps when I’m walking. I use my feet when I clean to feel for dust and dirt.
My mother was very young when I was born so my grandfather and grandmother raised me. The local school refused to accept me until I was eleven years old and even then they would only take me as a grade one pupil. When I was 16 a man in my village tried to rape me. The police arrested him but I was sent to live in a children’s home for my own safety.
I was the only blind child at the home and I stayed there working in the laundry and kitchen for many years. It was there that I came to know God. The house parents there loved God very much and taught us about Him.
I remember one day I was very sick and I had a dream of a big animal that lay beside me and tried to crush me. I screamed and screamed and tried to roll away from it. It was so powerful and so big. I remembered that my house parents taught me that if Satan is near you to call on the name of Jesus and Satan will run away from you. So in my spirit I screamed out Jesus Jesus, Jesus and suddenly that animal was gone and I became free again. After that I was sure that God was with me. I had never had much confidence in myself but now I had confidence in God. I prayed to Him about everything. I asked Him to help me learn to read and speak English and to do well in my studies. God answered so many of my prayers. I am sure that God is with me.
Eventually a couple from Australia who were working in Thailand as missionaries took me into their home. They were so kind to me. They taught me to be independent and treated me like a human. They took me with them to visit Australia too. I lived with them for nearly four years and then went to work as a volunteer at a blind school for two and a half years. During that time I was teaching English to the blind children and they taught me Braille. I also studied to pass my grade 10 and grade 12 exams. I then gained entry to Khon Kean University. In 2012 I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (English) with second-class honours. It was a four-year course but I finished in three and half years.
Getting a taste for learning made me hungry and thirsty for education. I had a blind teacher who gave me a chance. He said he did not expect anything back from me, but stressed that he did want me in the future to help other blind children like he had helped me.
On 7th February 2013 I opened the Mae Sot Blind Centre for children living near the Thai-Burma border. My aim is to prepare the students with good training in life skills for an independent future. I currently have three children that live with me. We start our day at 6.30 in the morning. We wash and get breakfast. The boys pick out their clothes for the day. At 9am we start Braille lessons. The morning is the same every day, writing Braille. We take a break every hour for 15 minutes. In the afternoon we follow the normal Thai school curriculum. In our community blind children are ignored, shoved in a corner or over-protected. This teaches them nothing about how to live functional and independent lives. But when my students have completed their education, they will be able to work as translators. I want them to have language skills, computer skills and life skills. They have to be able to look after themselves and be part of their community.”
I had a very hard life and I don’t want others to go through what I had to just because of their disability. Many blind people are so desperate that they want to kill themselves. It’s hurtful to feel rejected by your society. My tough experience has been precious; an easy life doesn’t teach you much. My life has taught me that I don’t want to be blind on the inside as well as on the outside. I don’t want any kid to go through what I did. Life is sometimes like hell and sometimes like heaven but I never worry because God is with me and so I am never scared. When God says yes anything is possible.
To learn more about Mae Sot Blind Centre visit their Facebook page.