She Reads South Asia

SheReadsSouthAsia

Friday, July 28, 2006

Triumph over adversity...

This article was circulated over Goanet by Prof George Pinto of San Jose, with the comment: "I first learnt of Joseph through Goa Sudharop (www.goasudharop.org). His courage is inspiring. Rather than allow a challenge (sight) get him down, he makes it a point to triumph over adversity. He is what is good and noble about Goa, a real-life hero in our midst. His story below.

by Valerie Rodrigues
valerie_goa at sancharnet.in

The sturdy bags made of thick coloured paper and with neat handles look so professionally done, that it is a surprise to hear that they are handmade. And the surprise turns to astonishment when one learns that Joseph Pereira, the young man who makes these bags, is totally blind.

Joseph lives in Orlim, South Goa. As a little boy, he had perfect eyesight till the age of ten. His loss of vision was sudden, when he suffered a retinal detachment in his left eye.

Ophthalmologists were unable to save his vision, nor could they pinpoint the reason for the detachment. Joseph, then studying in Std V, could still see with his right eye, and therefore continued his studies.

Unfortunately, soon after, he also suffered a retinal detachment in the right eye. Operated upon at Mumbai, he regained sight temporarily. The detachment however occurred again, and this time nothing more could be done. Just twelve years old, Joseph was totally blind.

Says Joseph, "That was a difficult time. Suddenly everything changed. I was not able to go out and play with my friends, not able to go to school."

Through the National Association of the Blind (NAB) at Santa Cruz, Goa, Joseph joined the St. Xavier's Centre for the Visually Handicapped at Old Goa where he learned Braille. He also learned to cane chairs and to make jute bags.

An uncle from Pune brought him a machine to make chalk sticks, and Joseph decided to try this. It took a lot of effort but with some innovations of his own, he ultimately mastered the technique and began supplying chalk to a few schools in Margao. Joseph was always interested in studying further and with help from NAB, he continued with his studies and passed his SSCE.

Through NAB, Joseph also learned to make paper bags and his first break came when Lorenz Photo Studio at Margao gave him a big order.

Today, Joseph makes and supplies different sized bags of excellent quality, with printing as per the customer's requirements. His satisfied customers include Lorenz Photo Studio, Costa's, Sula Wines, D-Link, designer Philu Martins, Verma Bridal Studio, Acron Arcade and others.

Joseph has faced many major setbacks in his life, but has managed to draw on his inner resilience to overcome each and every hurdle that he has encountered. Not only is he able to manage all household tasks, but he is also very active in local village activities.

Amazingly, even though he once fell and fractured an arm, Joseph still climbs up to replace the roof tiles of his house, whenever required.

It was joyous occasion a couple of years back when he married Albertina, a perfectly sighted girl from Cortalim, who is very appreciative of her talented husband. Joseph's elderly mother also resides with the couple.

In 2005, a documentary by an amateur filmmaker focussing on a day in the life of this ingenious young man, was screened at the Kala Academy at Panjim, Goa.

Early in 2006, the USA-based NGO, Goa Sudharop, employed Joseph as a resource person to provide training in the making of paper bags to the mentally-challenged residents of Peace Haven, Caranzalem. In appreciation of the excellent paper bags that he makes, Joseph recently received an award from NAB, Mumbai for the most successful cottage industry.

Joseph's determination and grit are evident as he says, "If one has the willpower, nothing is impossible. When people see what a handicapped person is capable of doing, they are surprised."

Truly, Joseph has succeeded in carving his own niche in spite of all odds and his life is an inspiration to us all.

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