18-24 March 2016 #800

A vision for life

She lost her eyesight at the age of 16 but gained a vision for life
Sahina Shrestha

Bikram Rai

No matter the time and place, every time Sristi KC heard music growing up she’d get up and dance – it was a creative outlet for self-expression. But when she developed an eye allergy in Grade 8, her doctor failed to warn her about the prolonged use of steroids and KC contracted glaucoma. She lost her eyesight at age 16.

She still retained her passion for dancing, but no dance school was willing to accept her. Worse, no college would give her admission.

“Private colleges didn’t want me, they saw me as a drawback,” recalled Sristi. She finally got admission to Padma Kanya Campus, but KC had to struggle to keep up with her studies. As someone who lost her eyesight later in life, she didn’t know how to read or write Braille.

Yet she persevered and developed tools to help her write, she recorded her lessons and asked her friends and family to read out loud to her. With hard work and help, she earned the highest grades in her class and received the Nepal Chatraa Bidya Padak, a top academic award, from the President. Later, she was also awarded the Arjun Swarna Padak gold medal for the highest scores in Nepali in her Bachelors exam.

“When I first lost my sight, I was dejected. But then I realised that it was only my eyes that were missing and not my hands and my feet,” said KC, giving full credit to her mother. Today, the 25-year-old runs Blind Rocks an institute training the visually impaired in interpersonal skills, dance, fashion and adventure sports to change society’s attitude towards them.

“When people talk about helping the blind, they usually mean education and jobs. Those are important, but even more important are life skills blind people need to assimilate into society,” KC explained.

Video by Bikram Rai and Ayesha Shakya

When she first started conducting workshops on body language, posture, facial expressions and art forms like singing and dancing, people questioned whether these skills were even needed for the blind. But with more publicity, interest grew even from sighted people.

“The situation of the blind is similar around the world, so I want to empower them and make them proactive members of the society and change the way society views us,” KC said. Blind Rocks has conducted workshops abroad also in India, Poland Russia, France, Norway, and Hong Kong.

“I have found that the workshops are better suited for foreign countries because in Nepal we disabled people and our families are too caught up in meeting our basic needs. Skills needed to assimilate and integrate into society takes a back seat,” KC added.

KC is currently studying dance and acting at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and as the only visually impaired student, she has had to come up with innovative ways to take in the lessons. She told us this has made her more determined to open an arts school for the vision impaired in Nepal too.

“I lost my sight but gained a vision for my life,” says KC. “To others like me, I want to say that opportunities are out there. All you need to do is reach out.”

Read also:

Seeing it a different way, Smriti Basnet

New vision for Nepal, Stéphane Huët

Helping the poor to see, Kunda Dixit

The gift of sight, Rubeena Mahato

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